Like I said on Twitter (follow me @wiltfongjr), You can never fault a GM for taking "his guy", regardless of when he grabs him. You never know which other teams are targeting him too.
When it comes to the NFL Draft the only scouts that matter are those that work for the NFL teams. Look at how many surprises took place in the draft. Look at how many surprises took place throughout the draft's history. Teams will take who they believe is the best fit for their team, ESPN, NFLN, and internet scouts be damned.
The reason we refer back to those mock draft experts or scouting services, is because we don't have access to the NFL teams draft boards. Last year the Seattle Seahawks took Bruce Irvin at 15 overall, and most "scouts" called him a 2nd round prospect. He played over 450 snaps in a pass rush role, and picked up 8 sacks and over 30 combined QB hits and hurries. But Bruce Irvin was a "reach", according to the experts.
The immediate criticism of the Kyle Long pick was something along the lines of, 'The Bears should have traded back and picked him later!' or 'He would have been available in the 2nd round at 50 for the Bears!'. Maybe, maybe not.
His ranking on the various top 100 prospect lists had him up in the 20s down through the 80s, but many of these lists are compiled as soon as the college season ends. Many of the scouting services that constantly update their lists, did have Long on the upswing. I've said this draft had a lot of depth through the first 75-100 picks, and that probably led to some of the disparity of where some guys went. One teams #3 DT, is another teams #1 DT. The top corner on my board, may be #4 on your board. Long was obviously fairly high on Phil Emery's board, but who's to say he wasn't high on another teams as well? One local football guy didn't believe he'd be there at 50 in the 2nd round for the Bears.
Many scouts tabbed Long as the third rated guard available, with his added flexibility to move to tackle seen as a plus. He was the third guard drafted, so in that aspect he did go when he probably should have gone.
There was speculation that the Dallas Cowboys had Long on their wish list, but maybe they figured they could trade back and still get him. Could that be why they picked a player that was universally graded lower than Long was, in Wisconsin center Travis Frederick? Then again, if Frederick pans out, who cares that he's now considered a reach.
Maybe the Manti Te'o to the Bears rumors, that were conveniently floated by someone at Halas Hall, were enough to give Dallas the confidence that the o-line needy Bears wouldn't take Long. Just one pick before the Bears, the New York Giants took versatile Syracuse offensive lineman Justin Pugh, who was another player the Cowboys had shown interest in.
I don't think Dallas owner Jerry Jones thought that Pugh and Long would go immediately after he traded back, but you never know who wants your guy until he's gone.
* Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune wrote about Long's stock going up:
A couple of days before the draft, I heard the Cowboys were a threat to take Long in the first round, perhaps if they moved down from the 18th pick. I later heard from league sources outside of Halas Hall that the Colts (24th pick) and Rams (22nd pick) were very interested in drafting him. Some suspected the Packers (26th pick) also were in the Long market.
Kyle's dad, Hall Of Famer Howie Long said there was no way that his son would be available down at 50 for the Bears either. He claims his son would never make it out of the first round. Now is this a case of a proud Papa boasting on his son, or the case of a long time NFL analyst with some inside information?
This entire scenario reminds me of last years draft. The Bears "reached" for Shea McClellin, then after the fact, it was speculated that the Packers and Patriots were interested in him as an edge rushing OLB in the 1st round. Time will tell if the Bears overvalued McClellin, but that will be settled on the field.
I did have the interior of the o-line listed as one of the Bears top needs, even though I didn't think they would draft one. I certainly didn't expect one at 20, and as the draft was falling I definitely didn't think they would take Kyle Long with that pick. I already said I wouldn't have taken Long, with my reasoning being that I want an immediate contributor in the 1st round. Now if Long comes in and wins the left guard job, then kudos to him and to Phil, but I'm not sure he can. With an o-lineman, he's either starting, or he's on the bench, save for a handful of snaps in the jumbo package. A first round backup isn't exactly good value in year one.
There were a few players available at 20 that I believe could have come in and played right away. The next three picks are all guys that I would have taken over Long. There's no guarantee they would have made contributions as a rookie, but I suspect they all would have.
Tight end Tyler Eifert would have projected to the #2 TE in Chicago, but his dynamic pass catching skill set would have garnered him plenty of reps as a rookie.
Cornerback Desmond Trufant could have come in and challenged for playing time at the nickleback position. He would have to beat out veteran Kelvin Hayden, but I wasn't overly impressed with Hayen's inconsistent play last year.
Sharrif Floyd was dropping all night until settling in at #23 with the Vikings. Floyd was the highest player rated available according to the network draft experts and internet scouts. With the Bears, at worst, he'd project to a rotational defensive tackle, and with his experience he would be able to spell both DT spots.
Linebacker Alec Ogletree, who was drafted at 30 to the Rams, is another guy I would have taken over Long. Grabbing a LB in the first, would then set up a situation to grab an offensive lineman in the 2nd. We've already discussed Long not being there at 50, so the next man up probably would have been Kentucky's Larry Warford, who many scouts mocked to the Bears with that 50th pick.
Most "experts" gave Warford a 2nd round grade, and NFL.com even had a 1st round grade on him. Could the Bears have rolled the dice and hoped Warford would have lasted all the way to 50? Hindsight tells us yes, because he ended up falling to the 3rd round. But how could a guy with a 1-2 grade on him drop to the 3rd? How could a guy with a 2nd round grade on him move up to the first? Why is it, year in and year out, we treat the internet draft boards as the gospel? They make mistakes, just like the scouts employed by the NFL teams do.
I may not have made Kyle Long the pick at #20, but I do like the prospect. As for whether or not he was a reach or not, we'll have to wait til next year to find out.
* I found the Pompei article after my post published, but the info seemed pertinent so I wanted to include it.