One of the Most Underrated Pass Rushers in the Draft: Marcus Smith

Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Taking a closer look at a player with tons of upside & athleticism, Marcus Smith

Thrusted into a new position, where he was asked to stand up as opposed to play with his hand in the dirt, Marcus Smith showed off his versatility and athleticism in 2013. If you watch any Chargers game last year, it's painfully obvious how slow the defense was. This led to Tom Telesco saying he wants to add speed to the outside linebacker position, something Smith certainly brings to the table.

Measurable Smith Average OLB
Height 6'3" 6'1 9/10"
Weight 251 239
Arm Length 34" 32 1/2"
40 Yard Dash 4.68 4.69
Bench Press 23 22
Vertical Jump 35 34.44"
Broad Jump 121 116 9/10"
3-Cone 7.48 7.13
20 Yard Shuttle 4.47 4.28

Smith is a very lanky athlete that moves well and has the versatility to excel on all 3 downs in different areas. Smith has a very good overall skill set to work with. To pair with his athleticism, Smith doesn't make mental mistakes.

Pass Rush Ability

Let's be honest, if you're taking an outside linebacker or defensive end in the 1st two rounds, it's likely to get after the passer. Everything else is secondary. While Smith had quite a bit of unblocked pressure, I thought he was excellent at using his length, and converting speed to power.

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Smith is able to use his length, convert that speed to power in a matter of steps, disengage, and hit the quarterback.

Another trait that translates well for Smith is his hand usage. He has quick, active hands. Which helps him keep himself clean, and eventually get to the quarterback.

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Smith has the versatility to win both inside and outside both with his alignment.

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As well as a pass rusher. Smith can take advantage of tackles who over set to account for his speed. Smith can win inside with a hard counter step, and shows a good burst to get home for a sack.

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Smith can stand to get better when he doesn't win initially. He's flashed a spin move, but doesn't really have any counter moves. The good news is Smith was a quarterback his freshman year at Louisville. It's clear he's still developing an arsenal of pass rush moves. At his size, I would like him to be more physical. Whether it's showing more power in his hands, or winning with strength initially,

Smith has room to develop in this area. Smith's active hands, athleticism, and high motor, bode well for him being a successful pass rusher at the next level. If he continues to improve, he could be a scary player off the edge.

Run Stopping Ability

Smith has flashed to ability to set the edge. You'll notice this when he locks his arms out, Smith showcases his upper body strength.

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When Smith locks his arms out, he gives himself a chance to disengage, and finish the play as well.

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Smith is much better when he's the aggressor and initiates contact 1st.

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The issue with Smith is that these are mainly flashes in the run game. He has a tendency to play high, let lineman get into his pads, and that leads to him being a non factor in the run game. At times, this would lead Smith to get washed out. He'll need to improve in 3 areas in order to be an every down player at the next level.

  1. Play With Better Pad Level
  2. Get Stronger at the Point of Attack
  3. Disengage Quicker
Athleticism

The reason I don't think Smith will far very far(hopefully to 57) is the athleticism he presents. It's easy to get wrapped up in athleticism, especially if you watch San Diego's linebacker coach Joe Berry work Smith out at his Pro Day, but Smith has some wow moments on tape. One coverage play stood out to me. Smith was in coverage, and he ran down the seam with a slot receiver.
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Like I noted 1st, you want your pass rushers to rush the passer. Smith did show that he was comfortable in underneath coverage, but also flashed that he can turn and run down the seam. He just provides more versatility for defensive coordinators.

The next play Smith beat the offensive guard on a spin move. But it wasn't just another spin move. What I saw was great balance & body control at a high speed. These sort of flashes are what makes me think Smith can potentially be something special.

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The last play that was a "wow" moment for me came in the Louisville's bowl game. Smith showed that he can close, and do so in a hurry.

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Smith came from the opposite hash, and came within a split second of sacking the Quarterback.

Grade/Final Thought

Multiple Pro Bowl Player, Top 10 8.5 – 9.0
Highly Productive Starter, 1st Round 8.0 – 8.4
Very Good Starter, Early 2nd Round 7.8 – 7.9
Reliable Starter, 2nd Round 7.5 – 7.7
Potential Starter in Year 2, 3rd Round 7.0 – 7.4
Backup/Spot Starter, 4th Round 6.5 – 6.9
Productive Backup, 5th Round 6.0 – 6.4
Very Good Backup/STs, 6th Round 5.5 – 5.9
Quality Backup/Good STs, 7th Round 5.0 – 5.4
Backup/STs/Project Player, 7th Round 4.5 – 4.9
Priority Free Agent w/ Limitations 4.0 – 4.4
Non-Draftable
Vs. The Run 4 3.6
Pass Rush Ability 4 3.9
Read & React 3 2.6
First Step 2 1.7
Pass Rush Moves 2 1.3
Tackling 2 1.5
Coverage 2 1.9
Motor 2 1.8
Stack & Shed/Strength at POA 2 1.4
Feet/COD 2 1.6

Smith is a very, very intriguing player. He has the tools to be special. Smith graded out as the 45th best player I've watched. Smith grades out to a 7.6. He needs to develop pass rush moves, get stronger at the point of attack, and play with more physicality. But the athleticism, versatility, high motor, and ability to get to the passer makes a possible steal in the draft. Like cornerback Rashaad Reynolds, Smith is one of my swing and miss players that I expect to be very good in the NFL.

How He Fits as a Charger

He certainly brings a speed dimension off the edge that San Diego desperately needs. His athleticism would allow defensive coordinator John Pagano to use him in a variety of ways. Smith is excellent when he kicks inside and can beat interior lineman with speed. He can also stunt up front and win that way as well. One of my favorite pass rushers in the draft, Charger fans should pray he falls to their 2nd round pick at 57. Pairing Smith with Dwight Freeney and Melvin Ingram for at least a year, would make life much easier on the secondary in 2014.

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