PHILADELPHIA — Chip Kelly wouldn’t let Johnny Manziel break his heart twice.
The Philadelphia Eagles passed on Johnny Football and selected Louisville linebacker Marcus Smith with the 26th pick in the NFL draft after trading four spots down with the Cleveland Browns.
“He broke my heart in college,” Kelly said about Manziel, the Texas A&M quarterback who slid down to Cleveland with the Eagles’ pick at No. 22. “I love him. I think he’s a dynamic quarterback, but we have a very good quarterback situation.”
The Eagles are set at quarterback with Pro Bowl co-MVP Nick Foles. They needed a pass rusher and Smith fits the bill.
The 6-foot-3, 251-pound Smith had 14.5 sacks as a senior, finishing second in the nation. He’s the first linebacker drafted in the first round by the Eagles since Jerry Robinson in 1979.
“We think he’s an outstanding athlete,” Kelly said. “He’s a big kid. He’s got a huge upside. Great athlete. Ran 4.68 (40-yard dash), he’s got speed coming off the edge. We thought having a pass rusher was a big thing for us. Young kid to bring in behind Trent (Cole) and Connor (Barwin). His ceiling is very, very high. We’re excited. He’s a tough, hard-nosed football player.”
The selection of Smith was a surprise because many draft projections had him going in the second round.
“I thought maybe second or even third round, but I’m just happy the Eagles took me,” Smith said.
Smith is a versatile player who played every position along the defensive line at Louisville. He projects at outside linebacker in Philadelphia’s 3-4 defense. Smith, who was recruited as a quarterback, has the speed to cover as well as rush from the edge.
“I want to come in and help right away, whether it’s special teams, rush the passer or play first and second down,” Smith said. “With my abilities, I can be a double-digit sack guy.”
Smith could push Trent Cole for playing time. Cole, a two-time Pro Bowl defensive end, led Philadelphia with eight sacks last year in his first season playing outside linebacker.
“Long levers are strong levers,” Kelly said, referring to Smith’s 34-inch arms. “He fits the mold for what we’re looking for. How many guys are that size, 250 pounds running a 4.6 range, having the long arms. We just thought he was a positive. This league is turning into a throwing league and you’ve got to be able to rush the quarterback.”
The Eagles got Cleveland’s third-round choice (No. 83) along with the 26th pick for No. 22. Kelly said there were six players the Eagles coveted at 22 and all were gone, so they traded down and added an extra pick for Friday night.
“We thought it was big just because we wanted Marcus, and we felt like if we went back just enough we could get that extra pick,” Kelly said. “We don’t know who that guy is, but last year that guy was (defensive tackle) Bennie Logan, so if you have a chance to go back just enough and still get the guy you want and get a Bennie Logan type of player, that’s a great deal for us.”
Kelly recruited Manziel at Oregon. Manziel went to Texas A&M and became the first player to win the Heisman Trophy as a freshman in 2012.
When Manziel started dropping, there was strong speculation he could end up in Philadelphia because of Kelly’s infatuation with him. But Foles had a breakout year in his second season.
Foles replaced Michael Vick and led the Eagles to an NFC East title. He threw 29 touchdown passes, including two in the playoffs, and only two interceptions, setting an NFL record for best TD/interception ratio. His passer rating of 119.2 was the third-highest in NFL history.