Bears Emery Goes Long in Round 1

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As we talked about yesterday in our Bears draft preview article, Phil Emery doesn’t draft based on anyone’s opinion but his own, and his second draft as General Manager of the Chicago Bears started in a much the same way as his first – choosing a player no one really saw coming off the board in Oregon offensive lineman Kyle Long.

The 2013 draft’s first round is going to be remembered as the march of the Offensive Lineman.  An unprecedented 8 lineman were selected in picks #1 through #20, 7 of them before the Bears used their #20 selection on Long.

Chiefs – #1 – Eric Fisher, OT Central Michigan
Jaguars – #2 – Luke Joeckel, OT Texas A&M
Eagles – #4 – Lane Johnson, OT Oklahoma
Cardinals – #7 – Jonathan Cooper, OG North Carolina
Titans – #10 – Chance Warmack, OG Alabama
Chargers – #11 – DJ Fluker, OT Alabama
Giants – #19 – Justin Pugh, OT Syracuse
Bears – #20 – Kyle Long, OG Oregon

This is just the second time in NFL Draft history that offensive lineman have gone #1 and #2, not since 1968, and the first time in NFL Draft history that 8 offensive lineman were taken in picks #1 – #20.

To compare, here is how many O-lineman were drafted first round in the 15 previous NFL drafts and the picks used on them (picks before #20 are bolded):
2012 – 4 picks, selections #4, #23, #24, #27
2011 – 8 picks, selections #9, #15, #17, #22, #23, #25, #29 (Bears Gabe Carimi), #32
2010 – 6 picks, selections #4, #6, #11, #17, #18, #23
2009 – 6 picks, selections #2, #6, #8, #21, #23, #28
2008 – 8 picks, selections #1, #12, #14 (Bears Chris Williams), #15, #17, #19, #21, #26
2007 – 4 picks, selections #3, #5, #28, #29
2006 – 3 picks, selections #4, #23, #29
2005 – 4 picks, selections #13, #19, #26, #32
2004 – 3 picks, selections #2, #16, #19
2003 – 4 picks, selections #8, #20, #21, #26
2002 – 5 picks, selections #4, #7, #10, #29 (Bears Marc Colombo), #30
2001 – 4 picks, selections #2, #14, #17, #18
2000 – 3 picks, selections #3, #20, #22
1999 – 6 picks, selections #14, #17, #18, #19, #21, #27
1998 – 5 picks, selections #7, #11, #23, #26, #27

The closest comparable is in 2008, when 8 lineman were taken and 6 of them in the top 20 picks.  If you notice, the number of offensive lineman taken in the first round has slowly ticked up in the last decade and a half, and one could argue this is in direct response to the ever increasing skill level coming into the league along the defensive front 7 with pass rushers now seen as a premium brand of talent, and teams realizing they need to protect their high investments in their quarterbacks.

For the record, not a single linebacker had come off the board before the Bears #20 pick, so arguably the other biggest need for the Bears, young LB talent, was available.  Emery probably felt the pressure of the run on offensive lineman and believed if he didn’t pull the trigger on Long at the #20 spot then he wouldn’t get the chance again when the Bears draft #18 in round 2 (50th pick overall).

It’s tough to judge Emery’s pick of Long because of Long’s relatively sparse football resume.  He originally played baseball for Florida State University, and was drafted by the Chicago White Sox as a pitcher in the 23rd round of the 2008 MLB Amateur Draft, but failed out of FSU and wound up at a community college in California for two years, playing defensive end his sophomore year and switching to offensive line his junior year.  His senior year was spent at Oregon playing under Chip Kelley, playing in 11 games and starting the final 5 at left guard, credited with six touchdown-resulting blocks and 36 knockdowns.

It’s also worth noting his football pedigree is pretty good – son of Hall of Famer Howie Long, and brother of St. Louis Rams defensive end Chris Long.

This, similar to Shea McClellin last year, will be another ‘wait and see’ pick, but it is presumed that Long was drafted to compete immediately for a starting position on the offensive line.  As of now, it can be assumed that Jermon Bushrod, Matt Slauson, Roberto Garza, & Kyle Long will all be starting line, with still an open competition at right tackle between J’Marcus Webb, Jonathan Scott, James Brown, & Gabe Carimi, and that it looks like at least one or two of those players won’t make the 53 man roster with all the new lineman additions the Bears have added in the offseason.  Of course, there are still 6 rounds of drafting to be done, plus the addition of undrafted talent and unsigned free agents, so the center and right tackle positions could still be addressed other ways.  No matter what, no Bears fan can say that Emery has ignored the plight of the Bears woeful offensive line.

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