With the 2013 NFL Draft now complete, the Bears will turn their attention towards OTAs and training camp over the next few months. Just what do the Bears have in first-round pick Kyle Long who is considered an elite athlete, but is extremely raw having only played 11 games at the Division I level in his career?
Many fans and members of the Chicago media are criticizing the selection because of the number of high profile players who were still on the board when GM Phil Emery selected Long with the 20th overall selection. However, in talking with and listening to a number of football personnel men who have evaluated Long, Emery may have struck gold by taking a chance on a very unrefined prospect who is loaded with athleticism.
I like the pick because the Bears offensive line has sorely needed a major upgrade and Long has the potential to develop into an elite player at either tackle spot or at guard. He has great bloodlines being the son of Hall of Famer Howie Long and the brother of St. Louis Rams defensive end Chris Long. He performed exceptionally well at the Senior Bowl against some of the best players in the country which he believes was the key to him getting on NFL GM's radar.
Former Bears O-Line coach Tony Wise, who helped Long prepare for the Senior Bowl believes that Long's best days are ahead of him and while he is currently listed as a guard, Wise sees a move to tackle in his future.
“I don’t want to insult anybody, but guards are a dime-a-dozen,” Wise told the Mully and Hanley Show on WSCR AM 670. “Guys with Kyle’s height and his reach and his ability to change directions and run, those guys don’t come along very often. I’ve seen film on some of these guys and people are going to call me crazy, but I’d stack him up against Luke Joeckel of Texas A&M and Eric Fisher of Central Michigan. The only thing they did, is they played left tackle their entire career."
Emery said in his press briefings for the two weeks leading up to the draft that he had a couple of players targeted and after the selection of Long, he went as far as saying that Long was the player that he had wanted all along.
“He’s the type of athlete and player that we have targeted,” said Emery, who thought Long was the best offensive lineman at the Senior Bowl. “He’s a fast, tough and a dynamic athlete, a productive athlete. We see a player who is going to contribute right away.”
University of California at Davis head football coach Ron Gould recruited Long when he was the assistant at the University of California at Berkeley and remembers being highly impressed the first time he saw him play.
"I remember thinking that's what they look like when they get drafted in the NFL. He is raw but he is very talented and I really believe that he has a chance to be a very special player once he learns the system and the various protections that he hasn't experienced yet. He is a freaky athlete and I distinctly remember thinking he was one of the most athletic offensive lineman I had ever seen after I saw him the first time," Gould told me.
It will take time to evaluate this pick but while many are criticizing the selection I like the pick as it gives the Bears a chance at an elite athlete on their offensive line for many years to come. Patience will be needed as Long learns the NFL game and both the guard and tackle spots. If he is as talented as some experts believe then Emery may have hit a home run in the first-round.