With the 2012 NFL season in the books, and the scouting combine in the rear-view, it's time to take a closer look at the 50 players we think will be the biggest difference-makers at the next level from this draft class. To that end, we're happy to continue this year's Shutdown 50 scouting reports (Hint: There may actually be more than 50). You can read last year's group here. The final 50 players were chosen and ranked based on game tape, combine and Pro Day results, overall positional value, and attributes and liabilities on and off the field.
42. Kyle Long, OL, Oregon
We continue this year's series with Oregon offensive lineman Kyle Long, who might have the most interesting story of any draft prospect on this year's list. The son of Hall-of-Fame defensive end Howie Long and brother to current St. Louis Rams defensive end Chris Long, the 6-foot-7, 313-pound Kyle (who both Howie and Chris call the best athlete in the family) started his collegiate athletic career as a fireballing pitcher for Florida State. But a DUI in Jan., 2009 gave him a night in jail, and a boot off the Seminoles' team. Long went back home, got his life in order, and enrolled at Saddleback Junior College in Mission Viejo, Ca. He put in two seasons there -- the first on the defensive line and the second on the offensive line -- and moved up to Oregon's offense and into their line with minimal preparation. Long started four games at left guard and excelled as a backup tackle without even taking part in spring football for the Ducks. Long petitioned the NCAA for another year of eligibility, a request that was denied. So now, he's looking to apply his raw but estimable skills to the NFL.
To that end, Long went to work with Travelle Gaines at Gaines' West Hollywood gym to prepare for the Senior Bowl. I met him there, and talked to former offensive line coach Tony Wise, who ran the lines for Jimmy Johnson at Miami and with the Dallas Cowboys, and most recently did the same for Dave Wannstedt at Pitt. Wise was in charge of forming Long's potential into something resembling a pro-ready offensive lineman, and he liked what he saw.
He's not a classic offensive lineman," Wise told me. "Sometimes, you get offensive linemen, and that's all they've done. They've never done another sport, which is a hindrance to them. That's one of the reasons he's such a good athlete -- he's done other things. He's got very good reach, and he's got heavy hands -- we talk about the ability to deliver a blow with his hands. He's got very good explosion off the line, and he's smart enough. So, I would say it's all positive."
Indeed, but NFL teams don't draft project players highly, and Long has the talent to be a higher pick. There are still some things to be worked out on his game tape, but considering his minimal experience at the BCS level, I'm wondering if Long might be one of this draft's biggest steals.
Pros: Looks like a prototype of the athletic offensive lineman -- outstanding musculature, big legs, wide butt. As a guard or tackle, shows impressive pulling speed -- gets out of his stance quickly and he's on the move. Shows good lateral agility in slide protection. Truly impressive upper-body strength, especially for a guy as tall as he is who doesn't always pop up out of his stance as low as you'd like -- will occasionally take linemen and just bury them anyway. That attribute (plus his huge wingspan) allows him to take on one blocker with one hand while he moves upfield to deal with another. Good and rapidly improving pass-blocker -- Long drops back smoothly and obstructs anybody in front of him once he's set his base.Read More »from The Shutdown 50: Oregon OL Kyle Long