Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery reached for offensive lineman Kyle Long, but offensive coordinator/line coach Aaron Kromer could change how that pick is viewed.
Long is physically talented, but incredibly raw. Scouts Inc. (subscription required) had him as the 25th best player and third best guard, but they didn't have much tape to go off of.
According to his Scouts Inc. (subscription required) draft profile Long was a defensive end in 2010 before switching of tackle in 2011 at Saddleback Junior College. He played in 11 games, but only started four for Oregon last season.
He was an interesting prospect before the draft process started because—as nearly everyone knows by now—his father is Hall of Fame lineman Howie Long and his brother is Chris Long, a defensive end for the Rams who had 24.5 sacks over the last two seasons.
The bloodlines are there, as is the physical talent.
Kyle Long upped his draft stock with a great showing at the NFL Combine. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.94 seconds and reportedly had the lowest body fat percentage of all the offensive linemen, despite weighing 313 pounds.
When Emery announced the draft pick to the media, he said Long had the highest "athletic index score" of any guard over the last 12 years, which is as far back as those records are kept.
Still, at the start of the draft, he was viewed as a second-round pick, or a late first rounder at best.
So why did Emery take him 20th? Maybe he couldn't work a trade back. Maybe he thought someone else would take him if he moved back. Or maybe he was confident in Kromer's ability to get the most out of Long.
Kromer's resume as a line coach is impressive. In four seasons as the line coach for the Saints, his lines ranked in the top 10 on Pro Football Focus' year-end rankings three times and were first in 2011. Even with Kromer spending more time as the interim coach, their line was ranked sixth this past season.
According to the team website, Kromer helped five different Saints be named to a combined 10 Pro Bowls during his time there.
He helped guards Jahri Evans and Carl Nicks take their games to the next level as well as center Brian de la Puente who sang his praises after the Bears hired him.
None of those players were first-round picks, and none possess the physical talent Long does. However, they had a lot more experience coming into the league.
With Long, the Bears are presenting Kromer with perhaps his biggest challenge, but possibly a player with the highest ceiling.
Kromer has proven he can get the most out of players, and Long certainly has the potential to be a great lineman at either guard or tackle. If Kromer can help Long reach his potential, no one will remember where he was supposed to be drafted.