NEW YORK - The Eagles went on the clock to make their first pick at 10:34 p.m. Thursday, and the fans who traveled to New York started an "E-A-G-L-E-S" chant. Opposing fans booed. Highlights from the 2013 season came on the board at Radio City Music Hall. There was palpable excitement in the auditorium.
Johnny Manziel, the most popular player in the draft, was still on the board. Manziel once broke Eagles coach Chip Kelly's heart by reneging on an oral commitment to Oregon, and there had been speculation that the Eagles might consider Manziel.
But there were other intriguing options - some of the draft's top receivers, including Southern California's Marqise Lee, and a few cornerbacks who warranted first-round interest.
At 10:39 p.m., the public address announcer revealed that the Eagles had traded the No. 22 pick to the Cleveland Browns, and most of the audience knew what was coming. Manziel was going to Cleveland. But what would happen to the Eagles?
Eagles fans needed to wait only 24 minutes. In between, the Kansas City Chiefs took Auburn pass rusher Dee Ford, the Cincinnati Bengals selected Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard, and the San Diego Chargers picked Texas Christian cornerback Jason Verrett.
The Eagles were up at No. 26. The same chants were heard from the same fans. Lee was still on the board. So was Ohio State cornerback Courtney Roby. Other receivers who were invited by the NFL such as Indiana's Cody Latimer and Vanderbilt's Jordan Matthews, were available.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell came to the podium at 11:10 p.m. to announce the Eagles' pick. When he said "Marcus Smith," the pass rusher from Louisville, the crowd went nearly silent. The Eagles fans didn't immediately boo, as they famously did 15 years ago when Donovan McNabb was selected. The response was more, "Who?"
Smith, a 6-foot-3, 251-pound college defensive end, finished second in major college football with 141/2 sacks. He was the American Athletic Conference's defensive player of the year. So there were accolades. He also fit a major need for the Eagles. But he was not a popular name among prognosticators; he was not even present at the draft. The league hosted 30 prospects, the most in the history of the event.
Some of those remaining in the green room had hopes of playing in Philadelphia. Lee, who victimized Kelly for 20 catches, 344 yards, and three touchdowns in two games against Kelly's Oregon teams, hoped that the impression he left in the Pac-12 would resonate in the draft room. Latimer drew three Eagles coaches to his private audition, and Kelly personally worked him out. He thought they were interested.
The fans who came to New York did not even get to watch their newest player shake Goodell's hand.
Smith was not the only player who was absent, but he was one of the few. He was also one of the few who drew little reaction among the crowd that spent the brief moment after Goodell's announcement wondering: "Who?"