Marcus Smith at combine

Louisville's Marcus Smith runs a drill at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis this past winter. On Thursday, the Philadelphia Eagles made Smith their first-round pick in the draft. He was the 26th pick of the draft.

PHILADELPHIA -- University of Louisville defensive end/linebacker Marcus Smith had no clue the Eagles were interested in him until they called him Thursday to tell him they were taking him in the first round of the NFL draft.

"I really had no idea until I got the phone call," Smith said Thursday night in a phone interview from Louisville, Ky. "I'm just filled with joy right now."

Smith was watching the draft at a sports bar in Louisville with his family when his phone rang.

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Until then, he had maintained faint hope that he would be a first-round draft pick but was expecting more likely to be drafted in the second or even the third round today.

But the Eagles had him rated much higher.

After executing a trade with Cleveland, they used the 26th overall pick Thursday to draft the 6-foot-3, 251-pound pass-rushing specialist.

"Picking up a pass rusher is big for us," Eagles coach Chip Kelly said Thursday night at the NovaCare Complex.

"Marcus is an outstanding athlete and has a very, very high ceiling. The guy has a huge upside. Once we moved down (in the first round), we were holding our breath that he would still be there for us.

"He's been on our radar for a while. I actually saw him play in person against Temple here, and he had a great game. He fits the mold of what we're looking for as a pass rusher. This league is turning into a thrower's league, and you have to be able to rush the quarterback."

Smith will be counted on to provide outside pressure on opposing quarterbacks, something that was missing from last year's Eagles defense. Of the Eagles' 37 sacks last season, only 16 came from outside linebackers Trent Cole (eight), Connor Barwin (five) and Brandon Graham (three).

Smith played defensive end at Louisville and enjoyed an outstanding senior season. He finished second in the country with 14 1/2 sacks to go with 42 tackles, 18 1/2 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and three deflections.

He was a quarterback at Hardaway High School in Columbus, Ga., before making the switch to defense at Louisville as a freshman.

"It took me about a year to get used to the change in positions because I had to develop the mentality of a defensive player," Smith said. "But I felt like I improved every year. I had a breakout season as a senior, and I want to carry that over into the NFL. I want to make an impact right away."

By trading down in the first round, the Eagles bypassed the chance to draft Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, who went to the Browns with that 22nd pick.

In exchange for the No. 22 pick, the Eagles acquired the No. 26 pick in the first round from the Browns, plus a third-round choice (No. 83 overall), which will be made on Friday.

The Eagles now have seven total picks in the draft.

"We thought about moving up in the first round, but the price was too rich for us," Kelly said. "There were about six guys still there at 22 that we would have felt comfortable taking, but when multiple teams started calling, we realized we could move down and get another pick. We just didn't want to move down too far."

When Manziel slid down the draft board, the Eagles emerged as a possibility due to Kelly's relationship with Manziel. He recruited him while he was coaching at the University of Oregon and attended his Pro Day workout last month.

But the Eagles already have four quarterbacks on the roster in Pro Bowler Nick Foles, former New York Jet Mark Sanchez, second-year player Matt Barkley and practice-squadder G.J. Kinne.

"I love (Manziel)," Kelly said. "I think he's a dynamite quarterback. But we already have a good quarterback situation here."

Prior to making the trade to move down, the Eagles resisted the urge to trade up to get one of the higher ranked wide receivers or defensive backs.

They were thought to be very interested in Louisiana State wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., but the NFC East rival New York Giants drafted him at No. 12. The top two rated wide receivers -- Clemson's Sammy Watkins and Texas A&M's Mike Evans -- were both picked in the top seven to Buffalo (fourth) and Tampa Bay (seventh), respectively. New Orleans traded up to take Oregon State's Brandin Cooks at No. 20.

Virginia Tech cornerback Kyle Fuller, who was also coveted by the Eagles, went to Chicago at No. 14.

The New York Jets selected Louisville safety Calvin Pryor at No. 18. Another highly regarded safety, Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was picked by Green Bay at No. 21. Two other talented cornerbacks -- Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard and Texas Christian's Jason Verrett -- were drafted by Cincinnati and San Diego just before the Eagles chose Smith.

"You never know how the draft is going to go," Kelly said. "I haven't seen any mock drafts, but if anybody predicted this one, they're all shaking their heads."

Extra points: The draft continues today with the second and third rounds, beginning at 7 p.m. The Eagles have one second-round pick (No. 54) and two thirds (Nos. 83 and 86). Last year, the Eagles drafted tight end Zach Ertz in the second round and nose tackle Bennie Logan in the third.

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Started at The Press in 1993 as an Ocean County reporter. Moved to the copy desk in 1994 until taking over as editor of At The Shore in 1995. Became deputy sports editor in 2004 and was promoted to sports editor in 2007.

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