The Philadelphia Eagles had some glaring needs heading into the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft Thursday evening. Their passing defense was ranked dead last in the league in 2013, giving up an average of 289.8 yards per game through the air. Naturally, most people would think that the quickest fix to that problem would be to draft a highly talented safety or cornerback to add to the secondary in 2014.
Chip Kelly and Eagles’ management thought otherwise, instead choosing to remedy the issue by upgrading their pass rush. DE Marcus Smith of Louisville was thought to be liked by Kelly, as Chip was reported to have attended the schools pro day weeks back. Smith is a naturally gifted athlete who played quarterback in high school and broke out with 14.5 sacks as senior last year.
NFL.com projected him to be taken somewhere in round three or four. Trading up a touch from No. 22 overall to maybe nab a Calvin Pryor or Ha Ha Clinton-Dix doesn’t seem like all that bad a move for the Eagles here. Or maybe even staying at 22 or using the 26th overall pick on safety Deone Bucannon made sense as well. Or conversely they could have taken either of the top graded cornerbacks still available in Darqueze Dennard or Bradley Roby.
But it feels like Smith was the highest guy on the Eagles’ board, and the organization’s minds were made up from the onset. It was probably a reach, but at least Kelly got an extra pick (83rd overall) out of it and in turn the Cleveland Browns got their quarterback in Johnny Manziel. If anything, the pick makes sense and is justified here as current starting OLB Trent Cole will turn 32 in October.
Of course, Kelly could have went the route of adding more toys for his offensive packages in the first round as well, but apparently Marqise Lee of USC was not an enticing enough opportunity to use a 26th overall pick, or any first round choice for that matter, on. Lee is graded as the 15th best player in the draft by NFL.com, yet he slipped outside of the first round. Whatever it is the average person is not privy to for information makes one ponder why it is his stock has dropped. Especially since he was still on the board when the Carolina Panthers instead selected the slower, more raw, Kelvin Benjamin.
There are always question marks and people who will scratch their heads on draft day. But at the end of the day, most of those people are just onlookers who live on the outside looking in. For whatever reason Chip Kelly went with Smith, all Eagles fans can do is hope he is an immediate contributor — or worst case scenario — not another Vernon Gholston. Had they not acquired the 83rd overall pick here to move down and draft Smith, this grade would have been lower than it actually is.
Final Grade: C