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Smith First Piece Of Draft Picture

Posted May 8, 2014

The NFL draft is a seven-round marathon jammed into a three-day roller coaster, and only when it ends is it fair to have a full perspective. Day 1 for the Eagles was one for the defense – and for what's ahead …

With the 26th pick in the first round on Thursday night, the Eagles selected Louisville outside linebacker Marcus Smith, a highly productive player who led the nation with 14.5 quarterback sacks a year ago and whom the Eagles spent a substantial amount of time researching and liking more every time they delved deeper into his game.

"I think (he's) a young kid to bring in behind Trent (Cole) and Connor (Barwin) and those guys can teach him the ropes and bring him along and show him what we can do," said head coach Chip Kelly. "But I think his ceiling is very, very high.  We're excited.  He's a tough, hard nosed football player.  A little bit new to the position.  Maybe a similar situation to (offensive tackle) Lane (Johnson) in terms of you're getting a guy that is a huge upside because he hasn't played the position that long. 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.  

"The fact that we could move back a little bit and pick up another pick because we were short in what we think is a good draft, we felt is a great situation for us."

The move is the other part of the equation that cannot yet be calculated. The Eagles, with time winding down on the 22nd pick, traded the pick to Cleveland for the 26th pick and a third-round selection, the 83rd overall pick.

Cleveland used No. 22 to take Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. The Eagles armed themselves with a second draft pick in the third round of Friday's draft, giving them seven picks overall. That's huge in a draft that the team – general manager Howie Roseman and Kelly – says is deep in talent.

The story on Thursday night was Smith, though. Kelly was part of the Eagles' contingent at Smith's Pro Day at Louisville and obviously liked what he saw from the game tape of Smith's senior season and the athletic ability Smith showed since then.

"He fits the mold for what we're looking for," said Kelly. "I think kind of that ceiling I talked about, because there is such an upside to him.  How many guys are that size, 250 plus pounds, running the 4.6 range, have the long arms.  I think we just thought it was a positive, and obviously this league is turning into a throwing league, and you've got to be able to rush the quarterback and we're aware of that.  You know, we were excited when we had the opportunity not only to get him but to back up.  I think it was a positive for us."

The Eagles addressed the defense first in the draft, and they have six picks to fill out other needs and challenge positions. There is a long way to go between now and late in the day on Saturday. The Eagles have some extra ammunition now, having acquired the second third-round pick.

How you evaluate the single draft pick that every team makes is one part of the equation. The entire picture is far from complete. The Eagles said they were going to trust their draft board, and they did that. They turned value at the No. 22 pick into an extra third-round draft pick. They added a prospect at the outside linebacker position on whom they did a ton of research – an extremely active and versatile player who fits the scheme here.

No doubt Smith has a lot to learn, as do all rookies. He's got a pair of ideal veterans in Cole and Barwin to learn from, to grow with, and to ultimately beat out on the playing field.

Marcus Smith? Who doesn't want a player who flies around the football field, who makes plays in the backfield, who runs well enough to cover receivers down the field? Defensive coordinator Bill Davis is going to enjoy working with Smith and any of the young players the Eagles bring in to continue to overhaul a defense that is not yet complete, just like a draft that has only just begun.

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