Part IV: DE Chris Long
2007 stats – 79 tackles, 14 sacks
Career stats – 187 tackles, 21 sacks
The Chiefs would likely thank the football gods if Chris Long dropped to the #5 spot on Saturday. A week ago, he was projected as a potential top overall selection.
Despite that, no one really knows where Long will go for sure. I've seen him projected to St. Louis, Atlanta, Oakland and yes, even the Chiefs over the last week. It's not completely ludicrous to speculate that he might end up in red and gold.
As the top defensive end in the country last season, he'd seem a logical replacement for the departed Jared Allen. Reading Tom Marino's scouting report of Long, it's difficult not to think of a player just like Allen, in fact.
But forget about all those sacks and big-time plays at Virginia. What really stands out where Long is concerned are the rave reviews people have given based on his work ethic and character.
You won't see his name on the "off-the-field problems" list in Saturday's draft. No one is questioning his motor during the play or his attention to detail in the classroom. You can probably forget about any DUI citations, although anything is possible when someone hands a 22-year old a check for millions of dollars.
I don't really need to list Long's accomplishments on the football field or rave about his talent here. If you've paid any attention to the pre-draft hype, you know all that stuff. Truthfully, no one would complain if the Chiefs drafted him with the fifth pick and tabbed him to replace Allen.
Here's what I don't like. Despite his extensive collegiate resume – 43 total games and a whopping 37 starts – Long had only 21 career sacks. And obviously, 14 came as a Senior. Whoever drafts Long on Saturday is getting a player with only one year of elite college production.
The real troubling aspect is that it's obvious why Long's college numbers don't stack up to some of the other big-time pass rushers that have entered the NFL recently.
Everyone knows he doesn't have the burst of a Dwight freeney or the strength of a Reggie White. His first step? Wouldn't beat Willie Roaf. His pursuit speed? Don't compare it to fellow 2007 rookie Vernon Gholston.
Long's abilities as a pass rusher are so suspect that some scouts have projected him as a defensive end in a 3-4 defensive formation, or even a defensive tackle in the 4-3. It was just a year ago that Adam Carriker, another big defensive end who was highly touted before the draft, went early in the first round. He was moved inside to tackle for the St. Louis Rams, and only logged two sacks as a rookie.
Just what would the Chiefs be getting with Chris Long? Is he truly capable of racking up 15 sacks, like Allen? Or is he just another solid player who won't make an offensive coordinator stay up late designing protection schemes?
And can you imagine the immense pressure Long might be under as a Chief if he was tabbed as the "new" Jared Allen? With his huge first-round contract (the one that Allen didn't get from the Chiefs) and elite-prospect expectations, there would be plenty of mental stress to handle from day one. You'd hope he would have the sense not to wear #69.
The final word:
Scout.com's Tom Marino rates Long as the top defensive end in this year's draft.
Quality individual and player. Finishes everything. Great playing character, tenacity and toughness. Good initial get off, sees things quickly, reacts, and shows excellent play range. Rare backside effort. Wasn't as nifty as I expected (bend and trim the edge). Great bend and core strength. More of a self-made player than a natural talent. Great leverage meeting and playing off blocks.The ultimate team guy. Top defensive player in the country.
Choose Your Destiny: Chris Long
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