Day 1 Review: Smith fills need for Eagles

Marcus Smith may have been the last guy expected to be drafted at pick 26 by the Eagles, not among a group that featured Marqise Lee, Darqueze Dennard, Bradley Roby and Jimmie Ward. But at pick 26, commissioner Roger Goddell announced that Marcus Smith was the newest Eagle.

On the surface, this is a questionable move. Smith was a defensive end at Louisville, not a position of need for the Eagles. But the Eagles needed a pass rushing linebacker. By all standards, they got the player they wanted.

"There was about six guys that we felt if they were there at 22, we would have taken them," head coach Chip Kelly said. "Unfortunately for us there were other people in the league who liked the same six guys we did. It just kinda happened. It was the best thing to do because we felt that we could get [Smith] at 26."

"You know, I had a feeling that I would but I didn't really know exactly," Smith said. "I thought I was looking at early second, maybe even the third round. But I'm just so happy the Eagles took a chance on me."

Smith is a converted quarterback to linebacker to defensive lineman. The Eagles plan to use Smith as a pass rushing linebacker. One of the qualities that sold the Eagles on the 6'3", 252-pound linebacker was his 14.5 sacks last season, second in all of college football. 

"We think he’s an outstanding athlete," Kelly said. "He’s a big kid. He’s got a huge upside. Great athlete. Ran 4.68, he’s got speed coming off the edge. We thought having a pass rusher was a big thing for us.

"They played multiple defenses there. He's played with his hand on the ground, he's played standing up, he can drop into coverage, he can rush the quarterback. We're excited about adding him, and the fact that we could move back a little bit and pick up another pick because we were short we felt in what we think is a good draft, we thought it was a great situation for us."

One of the better angles the Eagles took with this pick was leaving the best available player on the board. Addressing defense was important in the Draft, especially in the first round. 

Kelly also compared Smith's lack of playing time at linebacker to Lane Johnson from a season ago, comparing Smith's upside to Johnson's despite a lack of experience at the position the Eagles want him to play.

So Smith fills a position of need for the Eagles, not on the depth chart, but in the playbook. The Eagles want to apply pressure to the quarterback and can do that with the help of Smith. 

Kelly said he plans to have Connor Barwin and Trent Cole serve as mentors in the fundamental areas of the formations while allowing Smith to perform his role as a pass rusher. Again, Kelly stressed the qualities that made Smith so appealing to the Eagles.

"Long levers are strong levers," Kelly said. "He fits the mold for what we’re looking for. How many guys are that size, 250-pounds running a 4.6 range, having the long arms. We just thought he was a positive. This league is turning into a throwing league and you’ve got to be able to rush the quarterback."

Smith talked about players he compares to and mentioned some pretty hefty names in today's NFL, such as Osi Umenyiora, Clay Matthews and Aldon Smith. His pass rushing skills are good, but some question his ability to play in coverage. Smith assured that all areas of his game are good and will benefit the Eagles.

"I have good technique, I can rush the passer and I can also drop into coverage," Smith said. "I feel like I'm very athletic and I feel like I could have gone up where those guys went as far as my talent goes. But I know how the draft goes and I know all you have to do is get one team to love you, and I know that the Eagles will take care of me and I'm just so happy to be a part of this organization."

Day 2 of the NFL Draft begins at 7 p.m. on Friday night with rounds 2 and 3. 

Kevin Durso is a contributor for Eagledelphia. Follow him on twitter @KDursoPhilsNet.

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