The Chicago Bears drafted offensive lineman Kyle Long because, as GM Phil Emery pointed out yesterday, he's a rare athletic talent. Howie Long, NFL Hall of Fame defensive end and father of Kyle, agrees with Chicago's general manager.
"I've been saying this to his mom since he was 4 years old: He's kind of a freak of nature, physically. God just puts the hand on some people, puts the hand on their shoulder and says, ‘You're gifted. Now what are you going to do with it?' And that's Kyle. When you throw 95 in high school and you're 295 in high school and you run a 4.8 and you can jump out of the building, you can tomahawk dunk a basketball and all of those things, the question then becomes, what direction do you go in?"
At first, Kyle Long chose baseball over football. The Chicago White Sox drafted him out of high school but he instead chose to play baseball at Florida State. After flunking out, incurring a DUI and transferring schools twice, Long finally ended up in Oregon last year. After injuries befell the starters ahead of him, Long seized an opportunity to play left guard.
"I didn't ask [the Oregon coaches] if I could start. I told them I was going to start at left guard," Kyle said. "I told them I was going to be starting. We had a guy go down and I jumped at the opportunity. I was hungry to play."
He started the final four regular season games in 2012, plus the team's bowl game, but those five games are as far as his Division I experience goes. Still, his rare blend of size and athleticism had him rising up draft boards the past few weeks.
Still, most fans assume the Bears reached for Long and that he could have been available to the club at 50th overall. Howie disagrees.
"I knew when [Justin] Pugh came off the board as the fifth tackle and the two guards [Cooper and Warmack] were off the board, I kind of felt like – and I won't share the two or three teams that were picking after Chicago – but I felt like it was a really good opportunity maybe that Kyle would go somewhere between 20 and 28, 29, without tipping my hand," Howie said. "But he would have been off the board. I've heard people say, ‘Well, they should have traded down and got him in the second round.' He wouldn't have been there."
Bear Report made a few phone calls and the overwhelming opinion of those I spoke with agree with Howie and feel that Kyle would not have made it out of the first round. So while the Bears passed on some very talented players to grab Long, it doesn't appear he would have been an option for the team during today's second round.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.