This came out of left field.

With the 26th pick in this year’s draft, the Eagles selected Louisville’s Marcus Smith, who played defensive end in college but projects as a 3-4 pass-rushing linebacker in the NFL.

Smith was widely projected as an early second-round pick. He’s the first linebacker the Eagles have drafted in the first round since Jerry Robinson out of UCLA in 1979.

Smith, 6-foot-3, 250 pounds, played across the defensive line at Louisville and also played some linebacker. The last time a Louisville player was taken this high in the draft was 2007, when the Texans took defensive tackle Amobi Okoye with the 10th pick.

“We think he’s an outstanding athlete," Eagles coach Chip Kelly said. "Got recruited to Louisville as a quarterback. He’s a big kid. He’s transitioned to the OLB position. He’s got a huge upside. Great athlete. Ran 4.68, 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. New to the position. Similar to Lane Johnson -- you’re getting a guy who’s a huge upside because he hasn’t played the position very long."

The Eagles ranked 20th in the NFL last year with just 32 sacks. Nearly half of them -- 15 -- came in three games. They averaged 1.3 sacks in their 13 other games.

As a senior, Smith had 14½ sacks, second-most in NCAA Division 1, and 18½ tackles for loss. He was a third-team All-America and the AAC Defensive Player of the Year. He's the first Louisville player since the Ravens' Elvis Dumervil to earn All-American honors.