by Andrew Porter
Some “experts” said it would be a safety, either Calvin Pryor or “Ha Ha” Clinton-Dix. Some predicted the Eagles would draft a wide receiver in Odell Beckham Jr., Marqise Lee, or the speedy wide out, Bradin Cooks. Some projected top pass rusher, Anthony Barr, would fall to the Eagles. Some hoped for cornerback, Kyle Fuller.
They were wrong.
When it was the Eagles’ turn to make their selection at number 22, of the above players mentioned, only Lee was available. However, the Eagles passed on the wide receiver and traded back from 22 to 26, adding a third round pick from Cleveland on the way. With the 22nd pick, the Browns drafted the polarizing quarterback, Johnny Manziel.
With the 26th pick in the draft and Lee still on the board, the Eagles addressed arguably their biggest need and surprised everyone, drafting an outside linebacker from Louisville in Marcus Smith.
Smith, 6’3″, 251-pounds, had 14.5 sacks his senior season and while he is raw and needs to improve against the run, does project nicely as an outside pass rushing linebacker in Billy Davis’ 3-4 scheme.
Many fans were outraged by the selection, claiming the Eagles reached for a guy who would be available in the second, and maybe even, third round. The reality is, while the Eagles may have reached, they addressed a major need and added an extra third round pick in day one of the 2014 NFL draft.
Here’s what the “experts” are saying about the Eagles first round selection.
Ray Didinger, CSNPhilly.com / 94WIP
“I had him as a third rounder,” Didinger said on The Comcast Network on Thursday night. “This is the most outside the box pick so far. “It’s hard to believe that Marcus Smith was highest rated player on their board at that time. At this point I think this was a reach. I think you could have traded back 20 spots and not lost Marcus Smith.”
Adam Caplan, ESPN
Mel Kiper Jr., ESPN.com
I realize Philly moved down and added some value before they drafted him, but I think Marcus Smith is a reach. That said, they didn’t have glaring needs and went with a player they think can help.
Todd McShay, ESPN.com
Smith is a big-time reach at this point in the draft. A former quarterback, he has to get stronger at the point and improve his ability to anchor against the run. He can also makes strides in terms of reading his keys and diagnosing plays. On the other hand, he does have rare upside as a pass-rusher. While he doesn’t play quite as fast as he timed at the combine, he has the initial quickness and speed to threaten off the edge. In addition, he has active hands and can quickly work back inside when offensive tackles take away the edge.
Pete Prisco, CBSSports.com (B)
The Eagles need a young pass rusher, and he can provide that. He’s athletic and fits their scheme. I get it.
Mike Mayock, NFL Network.
Pretty exciting edge guy. I love the 3-4 outside linebacker with upside. I question his core strength a little bit on tape. Can this kid play? In that 3-4 scheme, he’s a perfect fit.
Bryan Fischer, NFL.com
Sure, it was a bit of a reach, but Smith’s name had been rising up boards in recent months. They could have used a cornerback like the higher-rated Bradley Roby, but they addressed a need by getting an outside linebacker who can come off the edge and spell Trent Cole.
Doug Farrar, SI.com (B-)
Projected by most as a second-round prospect, Smith has the power, speed and turn around the edge to make things happen at the NFL level. And in that regard, he’s not as much of a reach as some may assume.
Michael Schottey, BleacherReport.com
A lot of people are going to call this pick a massive reach, but the Philadelphia Eagles needed a pass-rusher and Marcus Smith knows how to rush the passer with the best of them.
This is a reach, as Marcus Smith was a second-round prospect. However, there are two things that save the Eagles from receiving a dreaded Millen grade: First, Smith is a very good fit for Chip Kelly’s defense and happens to fill a big need as a pass-rushing linebacker. Second, Philadelphia obtained a third-round selection while moving down for Smith, so they at least understood that they were overdrafting him.