There is a high bar set within the Long family. Deservedly so when you consider Kyle Long’s father is Howie Long (Hall of Fame) and brother is Chris Long (Pro Bowl Defensive End). Long actually began his collegiate career as a pitcher at Florida State, even being drafted in the 23rd round of the MLB Draft by the White Sox. His time at Florida State ended abruptly when issues concerning drug usage and academics surfaced. Long reinvented himself on the gridiron at Saddlebrook Community College where he began his career on the defensive side of the ball. He moved to the offensive line per the request of Chip Kelly. At Oregon he only started four games (all at left guard) but looks to be one of the more intriguing members of this draft class. He did petition for another year of eligibility but was denied by the NCAA.
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Bloodlines in the NFL are very important. The incidental information being passed on to a son or brother of what it takes to make it in the NFL is invaluable. This has clearly made its way to Long, as he participated in the Senior Bowl practices and game despite being visibly sick all week.
The footwork for a man that has only been playing offensive line for two years is really what stands out when you evaluate Long. His natural athleticism allows him to maul smaller defenders in space, often while pulling. An anecdote to his athleticism, I had to laugh during my viewing of the combine when I was asked if Long disappointed with a 4.94 in the forty. A 4.94 is an impressive time for a linemen, most linemen don’t have to follow Lane Johnson (4.72) and Terron Armstead (4.71) though. I think what is truly important when evaluating at the combine is whether their athleticism matches what they do in pads. In the case of Kyle Long, it does.
As a pass protector, Long never seemed to get beat in his short time playing, despite a few surprise stunts and secondary blitzers. When faced up with a defender, Long kept his man in front of him with a good initial punch and subsequent short area quickness to mirror. Oregon’s Quarterback, Marcus Mariota, would often continue to extend plays with his feet in games and Long kept him clean even with the additional time provided to defenders. When Long was being bull rushed, he wasn’t always playing with the best technique but was able to absorb defenders and impede their progress with great strength flexibility and bulk.
He has the ability to clear out blockers in the run game with unrelenting leg drive through his blocks. Defenders could not get around him to make a play on the ball carrier. Long latches onto defenders and doesn’t let go. Second level defenders were eaten up by monster blocks. Long completely erases them from the play when they are his first assignment and continues looking for more, moving onto the next defender. This result is applicable to all smaller defensive linemen as well. I imagine he is the vaccine offensive coordinators need when dealing when the sickness is undersized edge rushers.
I really struggled with this section but you have to acknowledge he is still learning the subtleties of offensive line play. He has strength and power but can’t always put it to work because his technique is raw, specifically hand placement. Long also doesn’t have a defined position at the next level. He is taller than most guards but has shorter arms than the ideal tackle. For this reason, I can’t give him credit for positional versatility. Long has that potential, it’s just too early in his playing career to anoint this characteristic to him. Continuing with that theme, defenses exploited his inexperience with exotic blitz schemes. Long also lacked intensity at times at Oregon, but considering their tempo this probably was just the limitations of an offensive linemen’s conditioning being tested.
Let me just say, when I put in the tape on this guy I completely fell in love with him. He has so very little of it but the majority of it is quality. The word potential has the potential to get coaches fired but I think he is well worth an investment. I don’t care what position he plays, I want him on my team if I am a general manager. I believe he will continue to ascend up draft boards because of his athleticism and become a late first/early second round selection.
Grade – 8.1