After losing Geoff Schwartz, and even though they signed Seth Olsen, the Vikings would still benefit from finding a high quality swing guard. The preference would surely be to find a guy that could not only be a quality backup to numerous positions on the line, but a guy that might push Brandon Fusco and Charlie Johnson for a starting position.
One possibility, Kyle Long out of Oregon, comes with an interesting past that includes an interesting path to the NFL. He comes from a football family, being the son of Howie Long and the brother of Chris Long, but it originally looked like Kyle’s future was going to be in baseball. After being drafted by the Chicago White Sox coming out of high school, Long decided to accept a scholarship at Florida State. That didn’t go too well, and only lasted one semester, as Long couldn’t make his grades and ended up getting nabbed for a DUI. He went home and eventually enrolled at Saddleback Junior College where he played on the defensive line with only mild success. He moved to offensive line in his second season at Saddleback and really seemed to find his niche.
After entertaining a number of bigger school suitors, Long signed on with the Oregon program and they kept him on the offensive line, which saw him instantly become one of the most athletic linemen in football. Despite being so raw to the position, Oregon started Long in 10 of their 12 games last season, and he made a good impression.
Long’s career path meant that he had to apply for a sixth year of eligibility, but he was denied and had little choice but to enter the 2013 Draft pool, and he presents an interesting case for teams to evaluate.
Long is 6′ 6″ and 313 pounds. He ran the third fastest forty yard dash (4.94) of all the offensive linemen at the Scouting Combine. That quickness and athleticism shows up on tape, too, as he is a very proficient pulling guard and seems to find himself making blocks at the second level more often than most guards do. He has an intensity to his game, like his brother does for the Rams, that cannot be taught and will certainly be attractive to every NFL team. He plays hard through the whistle on every snap.
You can tell that Long has only played the offensive line for a short amount of time. He sometimes has mental lapses and can freeze his feet on occasion and he also has a tendency to play too upright without enough flexibility, which allows defenders to get him off balance. He could stand to add some strength and bulk to his frame, but he has a powerful initial burst and uses his 11″ hands to deliver some nasty punches.
I would say that Long has first round athleticism, Day Two game tape, but question marks that could keep him from being drafted until the third round or later. His rerouted college career not only brings up character concerns, but it also mans he will already turn 25 years old during the 2013 season, and he enters the NFL with a lack of experience.
On the other hand, he hasn’t been in trouble for a number of years, and if he can combine some added bulk while refining his skills and flexibility, he could end up being one of the more gifted guards in the NFL for years to come. His father and brother have stated that he’s the best athlete in the family, which is saying something, and he certainly passes the eye test of an NFL offensive lineman.
For the Vikings, Long might be a good fit, as his athleticism and dominance in the run game are a combination they seem to seek out. Meanwhile, they don’t seem overly concerned with either Fusco or Johnson as starting options, and Long wouldn’t have to be forced into action right away if he isn’t ready. Although, he might provide serious competition for a starting job sooner rather than later if the work ethic he displayed on Saturdays has been a part of his pre-Draft preparation.
Long could be a serious consideration with the 22nd pick in the second round, and would be hard to resist if he is still available when they are on the clock in the third round. Although, it might be telling if Long’s former coach, Chip Kelly of the Eagles, passes on him enough times to let him fall this far.