Tweener body type; defensive end & outside linebacker
Will have to get stronger in run defense
Needs to improve at runs coming straight at him
Needs big weight gain to stay as a 4-3 end
Summary: A while back, a scout told me that there was a time where he did a lot of tape work on prospects in the summer heading into their senior seasons, but over time there was only so much advanced work that could be done because players change so much athletically as they mature at the end of their collegiate careers. Some players are late bloomers and make a huge jump in their abilities from their junior to senior seasons. Marcus Smith is one of those players.
Entering his senior year, Smith wasn't considered to be an early-round prospect as he recorded four sacks and 5.5 sacks as a junior and sophomore, respectively. He flourished under Charlie Strong in his final campaign.
Smith became a completely different player in 2013 and was one of the best pass rushers in college football. He was the American Conference Defensive Player of the Year as he finished the season with 14.5 sacks. Smith also had 42 tackles with 18.5 tackles for a loss, four forced fumbles and three passes broken up. The senior's sack total put him second in the nation behind only Stanford's Trent Murphy. Smith had multi-sack games against Florida International, Rutgers, South Florida, Connecticut and Miami. He then held his own at the Senior Bowl and did well at the Combine with a fast 40 time of 4.68 seconds.
Smith isn't big enough to stay at defensive end; he would fit best as a 3-4 outside linebacker. He has a nice get-off with the speed to burn offensive tackles around the corner. Smith has developed his ability to get off blocks quickly and chase down the quarterback. He also showed a nice ability to go for the strip-sack in 2013.
If Smith is drafted into a 4-3 defense, he should play Sam (strongside) linebacker on run downs and move to defensive end in passing situations. After gaining some weight in an NFL strength and conditioning program, Smith should be a better run defender. He could use that strength to hold up against downhill rushing attacks.
Some have said that Smith is getting late first-round consideration, but he looks more likely to be a second-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Player Comparison: Jabaal Sheard. Smith's style of play is similar to Sheard's (6-2, 255). They both are good edge rushers who are a little undersized. Sheard had a good rookie season with 8.5 sacks, but that total fell to 7.5 in year two and 5.5 in year three. Both Smith and Sheard are tweener defensive ends and outside linebackers. Sheard was a second-round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, and Smith should go in the same round.
NFL Matches: Jacksonville, Atlanta, New Orleans, Indianapolis, Arizona, Philadelphia, San Diego, Green Bay, Cincinnati, San Francisco
Last year, many were surprised when the Jaguars passed on Dion Jordan. Jacksonville has a pathetic pass rush, and Smith would be a quick upgrade. They also must improve their outside linebackers. Smith looks like a great fit for the Jags, who saw him at the Senior Bowl.
The Cardinals, Saints, Colts, Eagles, Packers, Chargers and 49ers are all 3-4 defenses that could use another pass rushing outside linebacker. It wouldn't be surprising if one of those teams targets Smith on day two. Indianapolis has shown a lot of interest in Smith, so he could easily end up with the Colts.
If the Falcons don't land an edge rusher with their first pick they could easily target Smith in round two, or maybe round three. Atlanta needs some pass rushers for Mike Nolan's defense.
The Bengals could be an interesting fit. Cincinnati lost Michael Johnson in free agency, while James Harrison was cut. Smith could be a good pass rushing weapon with Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap.