I think it’s safe to say the Philadelphia Eagles shocked and confused everyone when they used their first round pick on Louisville pass rusher Marcus Smith, someone that no one had in their final mock drafts going that early.
But why was it such a shock?
It’s not because Smith isn’t big enough. At 6’3″ 252 pounds, he’s got pretty ideal size for the rush linebacker position and even some room to grow. What’s more is that Smith’s arm length (34 inches) is very advantageous for his position to be able to extend into the chest of offensive linemen and control those matchups.
It can’t be because he didn’t produce at Louisville, because he racked up 18.5 tackles for loss and 14.5 sacks in addition to four forced fumbles and a blocked kick last season.
It’s not an issue of athletic ability, as the 252 pound Smith scampered 40 yards in 4.66 seconds, posted a 35-inch vertical jump, and threw up 23 bench press reps, all of which are very solid numbers.
So what was it that made this such a shocking pick? It would seem that Smith had put together the type of college resume that NFL teams covet, and the Philadelphia Eagles corroborated that by actually selecting him 26th overall.
Perhaps the issue with Smith was the total body of work. Prior to that senior season, he had never put up those kinds of numbers at Louisville. He had always been ‘OK’ in terms of his statistical production but he really broke out in 2013 and looks poised to make an impact at a somewhat crowded position for the Eagles.
And they will be able to slowly bring him along. Smith won’t be rushed into action unless there is some type of injury, but they have 2013 free agent big fish Connor Barwin at one OLB spot as well as top pass rusher Trent Cole. Not to mention, former first round pick Brandon Graham.
This is a guy with really good bend around the edge. His length allows him to reach the QB even just a split second quicker than a lot of other pass rushers, and it also helps him jar the ball loose.
I think, while this pick was slightly a shock for a lot of Eagles fans, it’s one that made sense given the need of a team that was the 2nd worst last season in sacks per pass play. Smith can certainly help with that.