The son of Oakland Raiders Hall of Fame defensive end Howie Long and brother of Chris Long, the former No. 2 overall pick of the St. Louis Rams in 2008, Kyle Long is characterized by both as the best athlete in the family. As a high schooler, he had the freakish size and athleticism to excel as an all-state baseball pitcher (and a lefty to boot) and first baseman, as well as an offensive and defensive lineman for back-to-back state football championship squads.
Despite his impressive football bloodlines, Long accepted a baseball scholarship to Florida State rather than sign with the White Sox, who selected him in the 23rd round of the 2008 draft. He lasted only one semester in Tallahassee, however, as he made bad grades and was cited for a DUI charge. After spending time pondering his future, he decided to follow the Long family narrative, playing defensive end at Saddleback Junior College. After an unremarkable freshman campaign (16 tackles, two for loss, sack), he moved to the offensive line as a sophomore in 2011.
After a frenzied recruiting battle, Long chose to attend Oregon. Long's time in Eugene was brief, however; he was a valuable backup at tackle (where his 6-6, 304-pound frame suggests he's ideally suited) and started just four games, at left guard. He applied for a sixth year of eligibility (via a medical redshirt), but the NCAA denied his suit, ending his college career and leaving scouts with more questions than answers. On one hand, he has the athleticism to succeed in the NFL. You can see this on tape, in Pac-12 games against Stanford, Southern Cal and hated in-state rival Oregon State. On the other, that pretty much constitutes the full gamut of his tape. Plus, he has character and inexperience questions that must be addressed. That's a lot for scouts to sift through...
What do our scouts think after they've done a bit of sifting? Read on, my good fellows, read on!
ESPN/ Scouts, Inc. (Gary Horton): 4th-rated OG; 57th overall
Pass Protection: Inexperienced but he has the raw physical skill set that provide him with a very high ceiling in this area. He is an agile and flexible athlete that possesses good length and natural core strength. He has abnormal height, particularly if lining up at guard, and will relax on occasion and can become off balance when playing with too high of pad level. However, he does show the knee bend, ankle flexibility and lateral agility to allow him to recover once initially caught out of position. Possesses a strong base and can sink hips to anchor against power moves. Needs work with hand technique but heavy handed and packs a powerful punch that can jar rushers. Once initially engaged he has the foot quickness and long arms to mirror rushers and keep them at bay. Grade reflex projection in this area as his flaws are correctable on tape with proper coaching and development.
Run Blocking: Possesses the powerbase, explosive upper body strength and agility to mold into an exceptional inline blocker. However, needs work with technique especially in terms of footwork and playing with more consistent pad level. He displays excellent first step quickness and has the ability to execute scoop, hook or reach blocks from the backside. When playing with proper pad level he can generate an explosive surge and can move defenders off the ball. Can engage too high at times but shows the ankle flexion and ability to sink hips to regenerate power and leverage. Light on his feet and rarely seen on the ground. Will occasionally become off balance due to inconsistent angles. He is a very gifted athlete and an easy mover in space. Moves well laterally when pulling down the line of scrimmage and can open up and run when reaching the open field. Flashes the body control and agility to adjust on the move but needs to continue develop with angles, timing and technique to consistently pick off defenders in space.
Awareness: Obvious area of weakness as a prospect and inexperience shines through. He appears to have more natural instincts in pass pro than as a run blocker at this point. Can be a step late identifying and locating targets in the run game at times. Also needs to work on timing coming off of combo blocks. Can be a second late identifying blitzes and defensive line movement in protection on occasion. However, it needs to be noted that on tape he made clear improvement in this area from the beginning of the 2012 season to the finale against Oregon State in late November. He appeared more confident and in turn played faster and painted a clearer picture of him as a prospect. Also this improvement maybe a gauge on how coachable he is.
Toughness: Possesses above-average core strength. Began to play with much more of an edge once gaining confidence as the season progressed. Possess the strength and mentality to finish when given the opportunity. Flashes a mean streak and will give opponents a little extra for good measure on occasion.
Intangibles: Comes from a very good pedigree. Father Howie Long was a hall of fame DT for the Oakland Raiders and older brother Chris Long is currently a DE for the St. Louis Rams and was the number two overall selection in the 2008 draft. Did not play football until sophomore year of high school. He was also a baseball standout in high school as a pitcher and officially was clocked in with a 96 mile an hour fastball. Ended up taking a baseball scholarship to Florida State and was drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the 23rd round of the 2008 MLB Draft. Failed out of Florida State after freshman year and was arrested in Charlottesville Virginia in January of 2009 for DUI. Took a year off from sports before enrolling at Saddleback Junior College in 2010. Reportedly was humbled by his father during his time off in 2009 and is continuing to mature. Not a malicious kid or bad apple. A soldier not a general and will be more likely to maximize potentially if surrounded by a sound support system. Versatile and has collegiate experience at guard and both tackle positions while also snapping in high school.
CBSSports.com (Rob Rang): 6th-rated OT; 54th overall
Strengths: Certainly looks the part. Possesses a naturally large frame with long arms. Impressive athlete. Light on his feet and possesses good balance and flexibility for a man of his size. Very mobile. Often asked to block on the move in this scheme, demonstrating very good lateral agility and straight-line speed, as well as the short-area quickness to adjust and hit the moving target. Flashs some nastiness to his game. Doesn't back down from physical challenges. Has heavy hands and can stun opponents with his initial punch. Keeps his legs driving on contact and can move defenders out of the hole. Enjoyed a solid performance in the Senior Bowl, itself, after missing a few days of practice with the flu. Clear talent and is just scratching the surface of his potential.
Weaknesses: Isn't the sum of his parts yet. Has rotated between left tackle and left guard over just two seasons playing on the offensive line and has been protected a bit by Oregon's quick-hitting scheme which rarely asks their offensive linemen to maintain blocks for very long. Has a tendency to punch at his defender, rather than latch on and needs to develop better hand placement, in general. Athletic enough to adjust on the fly but lacks experience and is prone to mental errors against surprise stunts, blitzes. Was unable to compete for the most important two days of practice at the Senior Bowl (Tuesday, Wednesday) due to a bout of the flu, missing out on a chance to impress scouts. His DUI charge while at Florida State will have to be investigated by teams.
Compares to: Jason Peters, OT, Philadelphia Eagles -- Peters was originally a defensive lineman before making the transition to tight end in college and ultimately emerging as a quality offensive tackle for the Bills (and later signing with the Eagles).
His impressive combination of size and athleticism gave him a shot at the NFL despite having no experience as an offensive lineman. Long is similarly large and athletic but has two years head start on Peters and, of course, has his famous family to help him get an opportunity in the league. A team willing to gamble on his significant upside could win big.
Pro Football Weekly (Nolan Nawrocki): 5th-rated OT; 37th overall
Positives: Excellent body length and a very good foot athlete. Can pull, lead up through the hole and strike a moving target. Shadows and mirrors when in pass protection. Battles through injuries - physically tough. Deep Pro Bowl NFL bloodlines. Ran a 4.94 40 at the Combine, which was third among O-linemen and tops for guards. Measured 15.8 percent body fat, a Combine low among offensive linemen. Has a strong support structure.
Negatives: Average arm length. Needs to get stronger and improve base strength. Only one year of experience starting in the FBS. Inconsistent play history and commitment level. Ankle injury during his senior year needs to be checked for durability. Immaturity concerns with a prior arrest.
Summary: A highly athletic, zone-blocking left guard, Long has been troubled by the weight of All-American expectations. He showed signs of settling down as a senior at Oregon, but needs to show that he can stay focused and out of trouble in the NFL.
Ourlads (Dan Shonka): 5th-rated OG; 71st overall
Started five games at Oregon and 10 at Saddleback Community College in 2011. Has the size, athletic ability, aggressiveness, and bloodlines for an NFL lineman. Dad is Hall of Fame defensive tackle Howie Long and brother is St. Louis defensive end Chris Long. Rotated at left guard for the Ducks. Started out as a defensive end and moved to the offensive line. Bounced around from Florida State as a highly recruited baseball player to junior college, then one year at Oregon. His appeal to the NCAA for an additional year was denied. Fundamentally off as a pass protector and run blocker. Plays high and back on his heels. Narrow based as a run blocker. There are off field red flags that need to be addressed. A high risk, high reward player with limited experience. A developmental guard or tackle still learning how to be an offensive lineman.
Although our panel is divided as to Long's pro position (guard or tackle), they are fairly close in assessing his place in the draft. They slot him between picks 54 and 71, which puts him in the mid-second to early third rounds. Why so high if there are so many questions about him? Long's NFL bloodlines, size and athleticism are simply too tempting to resist. Because his game comes with so many questions, however, I'm going to slot him (as a guard; I think the Cowboys are looking at him as an athletic interior player) in the third round on my 2013 "little board,' all the while fully cognizant that he'll be drafted earlier than that.
I can't imagine that he'll last to the 80th selection, so if Long is to become a Cowboy, he'll have to be chosen with the 47th pick. If this proves to be the case, I must confess that I'll be a bit deflated on draft day - but probably quite happy in 2014 and beyond, as he has the tools to develop into a very good NFL player. In fact, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see him develop into a top-ten LT. Its in that upside that I'll find comfort should Dallas call his name on April 26th.
Next up: Syracuse OT/ OG Justin Pugh