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NFL Draft: Offensive lineman was choice all along for Bears

2013 NFL Combine

2013 NFL Combine

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Since 2000, only two of the Bears’ first-round picks have been selected to the Pro Bowl — Brian Urlacher (2000 draft) and Tommie Harris (2004).

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The options were aplenty. Probably more so than general manager Phil Emery and Co. projected when the No. 20 pick came up.

There was Georgia linebacker Alec Ogletree, Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o and tight end Tyler Eifert and even Florida defensive tackle Shariff Floyd. Not to mention a few standout cornerbacks.

But Emery continues to be full of surprises, selecting a former White Sox draft pick.

The Bears selected Oregon offensive lineman Kyle Long as they continue to build in front of quarterback Jay Cutler. At 6-6 and 313 pounds, Long played tackle at Oregon, but Emery sees him as a guard, which is an area of need for the Bears.

Long is a versatile player, which is what Emery covets. Emery praised Long’s pass-protection skills after the selection.

“He’s the type of athlete and player that we have targeted,” said Emery, who thought Long was the best offensive lineman at the Senior Bowl. “[He’s a] fast, tough [and] dynamic athlete, a productive athlete. We see a player who is going to contribute right away.”

Long has a football pedigree. He’s the son of Hall of Fame defensive end Howie Long and the brother of St. Louis Rams defensive Chris Long. The Rams host the Bears on Nov. 24.

“Both dad and brother think that he’s the best athlete in the family,” Emery said.

Long was a two-sport star in high school. He actually went to Florida State on a baseball scholarship as a pitcher. Before that, he spurned the White Sox, who selected him in the 23rd round of the 2008 draft.

“I’m a football player now,” Long said.

Emery, once again, proved he’s able to keep everything close to the vest when it comes to the draft. Long was viewed as a second-round pick by many analysts. Even Long was surprised.

“I didn’t expect to go this high in the draft,” Long said. “I was just trying to keep an open mind.”

It was widely thought the Bears would try to trade down from the No. 20 spot, and with so many options available, it looked like a real possibility. But it didn’t happen, even though there were big trades made in front of them.

“We had some people call us, but nothing that would take us off that pick,” Emery said. “Kyle was the player that we targeted. We’ve targeted him for the last couple of weeks. He had to be gone for us to move back.”

But there are concerns with Long. Emery acknowledged that Long flunked out of Florida State and had some off-the-field issues. In January 2009, he was arrested for driving while intoxicated

“I’m past it now,” Long said.

“He’s recovered from those, and he’s moved forward,” Emery said.

Long, who started five games at left guard in 2011 at Oregon, also hasn’t played much football because he pursued a baseball career, which he called a good and a bad thing. He said he knows he’s a “raw” player.

“I’d be concerned if he wasn’t the person that he is and he wasn’t the dynamic athlete that he is,” Emery said.

But Emery said Long rated as “rare” in their rankings. Emery said there isn’t a movement that Long makes that doesn’t impress you. He also praised his leadership skills.

With the run on offensive linemen in the first round, Emery said he felt lucky that Long was there at No. 20.

“I had a great feeling about Chicago,” Long said. “I’m so thrilled. I was ecstatic to hear that the Bears drafted me.”

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