Eagles trade down to 26, select OLB Marcus Smith in first round

22 picks came, and 22 went, and the Eagles still hadn’t picked a player. They were originally slotted to pick 22nd overall, but decided halfway through their timer to trade the pick to the Cleveland Browns for the 26th pick and the 83rd pick, which is a third rounder. It didn’t come as much of a surprise that they decided to trade down after many of their top targets were drafted right before them such as safeties Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Calvin Pryor, CB Kyle Fuller, and WR Brandin Cooks. They had the chance to take CB Darqueze Dennard at 22, but decided to pass him up and maybe see if he would be available at 26. Well, Dennard was picked 24th overall, and CB Jason Verrett was taken one pick later, eliminating two cornerbacks that the Eagles could have possibly wanted. CB wasn’t their number one need, but it was still a need. So at 26, they decided not to pick a CB, S, or WR, but someone else. OLB Marcus Smith of Louisville. Hmm…

Let the flood gates unleash, the fans were ready to kill. At least that’s what I thought would happen. Eagles fans have a tendency to rip the Eagles’ draft pick if it isn’t exactly who they wanted, and this seemed to be like one of those situations. But Eagles writer Zach Berman seemed to put it perfectly:

Eagles fans knew that they needed an OLB that was both a good pass rusher and good at coverage, but I don’t think they were expecting them to take one in the first round. As for my reaction, I’m not exactly upset with the pick, but I’m a little disappointed. This was such a deep draft this year and there were so many guys that they could’ve taken, but their pick was just a few picks too low. It resulted in them not having anyone they really wanted in the position they were in, and being forced to reach a bit for someone who was likely going to be picked mid to high 2nd round. Which is exactly why they picked him…even though it was a reach, they needed an OLB, and he would’ve likely been gone by their next pick, so they went for it. A bunch of cornerbacks were already taken, meaning they can probably snag one in the 3rd round and still have him play.

But I still can’t help be disappointed. It isn’t entirely their fault because they were put in a bad situation with who was left, but I still wish they could’ve gotten someone else. I’m still wondering why they didn’t take Dennard at 22, who was projected to go at least 10 picks higher than he was taken according to some mock drafts. It also seemed pretty obvious that the Saints were going to pick Cooks when he was still available there, so I wonder if they at least tried to trade up a pick or two to get him. I can’t criticize them for something I don’t know, but at the same time, it just seemed like the Eagles were screwed over by everything.

Smith still had a very good college career, playing both OLB and DE. Last year he had 42 tackles and 14.5 sacks, which are very impressive numbers. His sack per game ratio was the highest in the league at over a sack per game. That’s awesome. So why am I still disappointed? Because he’s not going to make a major impact next year as a starter. The Eagles already have Trent Cole and Connor Barwin at OLB, both of whom are likely to start. So where does this leave Smith? Well, he’s going to have to be put in as a rotation player in the beginning until Cole is gone. I’m actually a bit surprised that Cole didn’t get traded, but the draft isn’t over yet. If the plan was to trade Cole on day two or three of the draft anyway, then I can definitely understand this pick. But assuming that they let Cole’s contract play out for his last year (which at this point makes the most sense), then Smith is no more than a backup for next year.

Which brings me to why I’m really a bit disappointed by the pick. My draft philosophy is similar to that of economics…it’s all about drafting at the margin. As in economics, businesses make decisions at the margin in order to maximize their profits. Well, I believe that the best way to draft is to pick a player that’s going to most improve upon that position of the guys your team already has. I will go into more detail in a later post after the draft, but my main problem with the pick is that it doesn’t solve any need for this year, which is something teams should be doing in the first round.

As for today’s part of the draft, the Eagles have three picks (one 2nd rounder and two 3rd rounders). I expect them to take a WR with one of these picks, more likely with their 2nd round pick. I also hope that they take a CB and S with their other two picks, although I wouldn’t be surprised to see them take an offensive lineman (guard or tackle) with one of those third rounders in order to develop some depth since their line is getting a bit old. Those are their most obvious needs, but we’ll just have to see what Chip Kelly and Howie Roseman decide to do.

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