No one outside the Bears' war room saw this coming.
Especially with seven offensive linemen already taken in the first 19 picks, few anticipated the Bears would make it eight in the first 20 picks by choosing inexperienced but athletic Oregon guard Kyle Long, the younger son of Raiders Hall of Fame defensive end Howie Long.
“This is the type of athlete and player we have targeted,” said Bears general manager Phil Emery. “He's a fast, tough, dynamic athlete. We thought he was the best offensive lineman at the Senior Bowl.”
Howie's 6-foot-6, 313-pound son played just one season of major-college football and only started four games.
He went to Florida State as a pitcher and was drafted in the 23rd round out of high school by the White Sox in the 23rd round of the 2008 MLB draft.
But, after flunking out of Florida State, Long decided to follow in the footsteps of his famous father and brother Chris, a defensive end with the St. Louis Rams. So he transferred to Saddleback Junior College, where he played defensive end his first year (2010) and then converted to O-line and started 10 games in 2011.
Long is considered an excellent athlete for an offensive lineman, especially for a guard, and his NFL bloodlines are a plus. His 4.94 40-yard dash at the scouting combine was the third fastest among all offensive linemen and the best among guards. His 15.8 percent body fat was the best among all offensive linemen.
“Both his dad and his brother feel he's the best athlete in the family,” Emery said. “He's got great agility, great lateral agility, very good feet.”
“I don't know about that,” Long said in a conference call late Thursday night. “They might have just been blowing smoke. I'm standing next to a guy right here doing dishes who was a pretty good athlete — my dad.”
According to Emery, based on the system the Bears use to evaluate athleticism, Long tested higher than any guard in the past 12 years and among the top five tackles over that time.
In addition to his academic difficulties at Florida State, Long was arrested on charges of a DUI in January 2009 and also has had to answer questions about rumors of chemical dependency.
“I was a young kid and dealing with stuff off the field,” he said. “I'm 4½ years removed from it. I was very straightforward with the Bears. I believe I'm a stand-up guy, honest forthright and blunt.”
Emery was more than satisfied by Long's explanation of those events in face-to-face meetings.
“All of us have fallen,” Emery said. “But do we get up? He's very much a leader. He explained it in detail. He was very young, 18 (at the time of the DUI). He understood the direction he had to go in.”
Long will begin his Bears career as a guard, and despite his inexperience. Emery sees him as a versatile player who eventually could factor at the more valuable left-tackle position.
There was plenty of linebacker and cornerback talent was on the board at 20, and those were two positions believed to interest the Bears. Only one linebacker, Jarvis Jones, and two cornerbacks, Dee Milliner and longshot D.J. Hayden, had been selected at that point.
Among the highly regarded linebackers, Notre Dame's Manti Te'o and Georgia's Alec Ogletree still were available. Cornerback Desmond Trufant was taken two picks later. Te'o was not taken in the first round, while Ogletree went 30th.
Previously, the most offensive linemen ever selected in the first 20 picks of the draft were six.
“We felt there could be a record run on offensive linemen,” Emery said. “We felt there could be eight taken, and ours was the eighth.”
The only offensive-skill-position player taken in the first 15 picks was West Virginia wide receiver Tavon Austin. Even though Emery considered the wide receiver talent in this draft “above average,” Austin was the only one off the board when the Bears' pick came around.
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