Marcus Smith is a good football player and a good fit for the Eagles. I think he can be an outstanding 3-4 OLB. The Eagles are a better team with him in the mix. He offers size, versatility and athleticism that wasn’t there at ROLB as of Wednesday.
But many people are upset with the pick because of the question of value. People think Howie Roseman is being untrue to his Best Player Available theory. Let’s discuss that notion.
First, none of us knows the Eagles board. I get some info here and there, but didn’t hear a word about Smith. Chip Kelly went to his Pro Day. The Eagles brought him to Philly for a visit. They had definite interest in him. We now know that they liked him quite a bit. Let’s talk about why.
First, body type. At the Senior Bowl, Smith measured in at 6034, 258. That is 6-3 1/2 and 258 pounds. He was 251 at the Combine and 253 at his Pro Day. That tells you that he carries 255 pounds or so pretty naturally. The Eagles would love him to be 6-5, but being about 6-3 1/2 is still a good frame. He has 34-inch arms and 10-inch hands. Those are crucial to the Eagles. Chip Kelly has a saying that “long levers make strong levers”. The big hands help him to tackle better and shed blocks more effectively.
Now let’s talk about the skills the Eagles want in an OLB.
Roseman says edge rushers are ranked on three things: How they can rush the passer, set the edge and play in space.
— Eagles Insider (@EaglesInsider) May 1, 2014
Smith grades out well in all 3 categories. He had 14.5 sacks last year so you know he has some pass rush skills. Put on the tape and you see him playing the run well. The thing that really surprised me was how well he did in coverage. Smith looked natural playing in space.
The Eagles weren’t interested in a pure speed rusher. They didn’t want Dee Ford. The Eagles preferred a LB who was versatile. They don’t want to line up and rush the same guys from the same spots over and over. Think about what Chip Kelly has said about Peyton Manning. You can’t beat him playing straight up. You must be multiple. You must be creative. Smith can be effective rushing or covering. That is hugely important to the 3-4 defense and the zone blitz.
Smith had the size, skills, production and athleticism that the Eagles wanted. You can easily see where they had him rated higher than other players. You can also see where other teams didn’t like him as much. Grades are specific to teams. Aaron Donald was coveted by many 4-3 teams. I doubt the Eagles had him on their board at all. Didn’t fit.
I’m sure plenty of people saw Smith as a reach at 26. I doubt 4-3 teams saw him as a Top 50 player. But that is irrelevant to the Eagles and their board. They graded players on the qualities they prefer and how players fit their systems.
I had no problem with Smith being a late 1st round pick. In fact, I wrote about him as a target if the Eagles moved back with a trade…and I wrote that in mid-April.
I don’t think Smith is a guy that will step in and start right off the bat. I think you mix him into sub packages and see how he adjusts to the NFL. If he thrives, you start him sooner rather than later. If he struggles, you bring him along slowly. Smith is here to be a key player for the next 5 years, not the 2014 season.
Because Louisville played such a creative scheme, I think Smith can adjust to the NFL quicker than other guys. Louisville played a 4-3 in the past, but ran more 3-4 this year. Smith lined up all over and rushed from various spots. He also dropped into coverage on a semi-regular basis. There isn’t a whole lot of projection here. The Eagles have seen him handling the role they will use him in.
Smith had a good postseason showing. He impressed me in the Senior Bowl game.
* Marcus Smith did impress me. The stat sheet shows one tackle, but I thought he did a solid job as both a run defender and a pass rusher. He was aggressive and physical with blockers. Smith showed some cover skills as well. There was one play when he turned and ran with the TE down the seam. That’s impressive for a guy who is 6-4, 258. You know 3-4 teams are interested in Smith as an OLB.
Here’s what I wrote about him from the Combine.
Marcus Smith weighed in at 251, which is 7 pounds lighter than the Senior Bowl. Some guys do this so they will be faster. He ran 4.68, which is a good time. He had a 35-inch VJ, which is good. The one area where Smith struggled was the 3-cone. He came in at 7.48. That needs to be down closer to 7.00-7.15. I didn’t get to see his on-field workouts yet, but I’m still a fan of his.
Per Gil Brandt, Smith did lower his 3-cone time to 7.08, which is right where I said it should be.
I’ll post a lot more on Smith in the coming weeks. I’ll break down some tape of his so you can see the various skills of his and why Smith impressed me so much.
Don’t obsess on the value question. More than a few people assumed that the Eagles could have moved back again and still gotten Smith. That is possible, but it misses the point. They also could have lost Smith. We have no way of knowing if the Eagles were the only team that loved him. The Eagles obviously felt strongly about him and didn’t want to risk losing Smith. And I do trust that they had a high grade on him. After the 2011 situation, I can’t see Howie reaching in a major way. You can argue that the Eagles had Smith graded too highly, but that is different than saying he wasn’t their BPA.
When you factor in that the Eagles moved back 4 spots and added a 3rd round pick, I love the move. The Eagles added a young, athletic pass rusher to their defense and also a good pick in a very deep and talented draft.
The other benefit here is that the Eagles can now deal Brandon Graham if they want to. As I mentioned the other day, the Eagles wouldn’t get all that much for him, but any extra picks this year would be appreciated.
The Eagles drafted a big, fast, athletic OLB and added a 3rd round pick. That’s a good start to the draft. There are still plenty of good WRs to choose from in the 2nd round. I’m shocked that Marqise Lee is still on the board. Maybe the Eagles will move up for a WR that they like a lot. If they use the 3rd round pick they got on Thursday, they can get up to about pick 36 or 37. Lee and/or Cody Latimer could be sitting there.
I got my pass rusher so I’m a happy camper.