The Philadelphia Eagles fans who attended the draft didn’t appear too happy with the pick of Marcus Smith. However, they shouldn’t be too upset as Smith has as much potential as any player in this draft. He’s an explosive athlete who excels at generating pressure on the quarterback.
While his size suggests a tweener, Smith is a good enough athlete to play outside linebacker. Smith fills a need for the Eagles who are looking for someone to eventually replace Trent Cole and work opposite Connor Barwin. This pick gives them the answer to that question while also providing someone capable of providing an instant impact.
His best attribute is his explosive first step which he pairs with good snap awareness to rush the quarterback. He’s a tenacious player who is constantly in pursuit of the football. Smith won’t only contribute as a passer rush as he’s also committed to supporting the run.
He quickly closes the back door and isn’t afraid to set the edge. His use of inside hands helps him keep clean, disengage and make plays away from his frame.
More important is the fact that Smith’s athleticism allows him to hold up in coverage. Philadelphia isn’t going to ask him to play in coverage too often because it takes away from his biggest asset which is wreaking havoc in the backfield.
Unlike the majority of pass-rushers in this year’s class, Smith has a wide array of pass-rush moves. He uses his change of direction ability as a great counter to his speed rush. Smith is committed to using his hands by gaining inside leverage to employ a surprisingly effective bull rush.
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller had this to say about Smith in one of his scouting notebooks all the way back in December:
Productive, athletic and eye-catching when you turn on the film, Louisville's Marcus Smith has flown too far under my radar this season. With a second look at Louisville before its matchup against Miami in the Russell Athletic Bowl, I finally gave Smith the full attention he's deserved. And I was impressed.
Smith is quick off the ball and has the hand use you want to see from an edge-defender. At 6'3" and 255 pounds, he looks more like a left defensive end (LEO) or stand-up 3-4 linebacker, but Smith's quickness and range are underrated at this point. He's firmly in my top 120 prospects heading into the new year.
The Eagles were smart to grab Smith in the first round because this year’s draft doesn’t feature a lot of good edge-rushers. Wide receiver was the most publicized need for Philadelphia, but that’s a position they could address in the later rounds.
This draft has ton wide receivers who could come off the board later in the draft and still make a major impact. Players like Allen Robinson, Davante Adams and Cody Latimer could all be available when the Eagles pick in the second round.
Each of those prospects would fit in nicely alongside pass-catchers like Jeremy Maclin, Riley Cooper, Brent Celek and Zach Ertz. The tweet below is an example of how highly some think of Ertz and how he's expected to be a bigger part of the game plan.
Conversely, it’s tough to find another outside linebacker who can rush the passer like Smith. The only other player who remotely fits that description is Boise State’s DeMarcus Lawrence who is a much rawer prospect.