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Another obscure draft pick for Bears GM

Emery takes a Long shot, and will have to wait a while to see if it comes in

David Haugh

In the Wake of the News

April 26, 2013

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Dressed comfortably for a long Thursday night in blue jeans and a Bears jacket, team Chairman George McCaskey entered Halas Hall and promptly placed a stack of 2013 pocket schedules on the receptionist's desk.

How misleading.

Nothing else the Bears did during the first round of the NFL draft had anything to do with preparing for next season. Selecting guard Kyle Long of Oregon with the No. 20 overall choice clearly represented a move for the future, not the present. The Long view, indeed.

Yes, by definition, every draft looks ahead several seasons. But the Bears went to great lengths to remind us rather than draft a player who might bolster an aging defense or fill a need free agency didn't address.

"We see a player who's going to contribute right away,'' Phil Emery said.

I see a 6-foot-6, 313-pound risk with a troubling past and limited experience against elite competition.

Long started just four games for the Ducks last season, the only one he played after a circuitous path created by his immaturity. A left-hander with a 96 mph fastball whom the White Sox drafted in the 23rd round of the 2008 draft, Long played baseball at Florida State until academic problems and "chemical-dependency'' issues after a DUI arrest sent him west. The son of Hall of Fame defensive end Howie Long landed in Southern California working at a surf shop and enrolling in classes at Saddleback Community College in Mission Viejo, Calif., where he resumed playing football.

"I was a young kid and dealing with some things off the field,'' Long said Thursday night in a teleconference. "I'm 41/2 years removed from that. I'm grateful the Bears have given me an opportunity.''

It all makes for an inspiring tale of redemption. That doesn't make it an inspired choice by Emery.

The Bears bypassed linebackers and cornerbacks still on the board who figured to make a quicker impact. They bypassed tight end Tyler Eifert and defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, rated by many a top-five talent, for a guy ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. called a "developmental'' player.

Emery got cute again. A year after drafting Shea McClellin out of Boise State in the first round, three months after hiring Marc Trestman out of the obscurity of the Canadian Football League, Emery followed the same unorthodox pattern.

Taking Long one day might make Emery look like the smartest guy in the room. Right now, it seems more like a choice about Emery trying to prove it.

And the Bears started the night looking so wise.

When six of the first 11 picks were offensive linemen, it reinforced how perceptive the Bears' five-year, $35.9 million deal with left tackle Jermon Bushrod was. Those teams sought via the draft what the Bears paid for via free agency: offensive-line stability. The Bears once tried going the draft route, too, but their plans hit a snag when they discovered 2008 first-round tackle Chris Williams was too soft and 2011 first-round tackle Gabe Carimi was too weak.

Bushrod, on the other hand, developed into a left tackle capable of anchoring a shaky line that has helped deprive the Bears and Chicago from seeing quarterback Jay Cutler realize his potential. They used the same philosophy by dipping back into free agency for veteran depth in signing guards Matt Slauson and Eben Britton.

Those moves left the impression that the Bears had learned from the draft mistakes of Williams and Carimi. Their track record speaks for itself. But Emery only heard the beat of his drummer and drafted another one, trusting new line coach Aaron Kromer's history of developing linemen.

At least the Bears going with an offensive lineman reflected the early trend. Rebuilding teams at the top of the draft went on the clock committed to building from the inside out. Only one skill-position offensive player went in the top 10 — West Virginia game-breaker Tavon Austin to the Rams — as the emphasis became protecting the quarterback and rushing the passer.

The Lions stayed true to that idea by adding another pass-rusher to chase Cutler in No. 5 pick Ezekiel Ansah of Brigham Young. He goes by "Ziggy.'' Eventually the Lions might refer to him as Mike Mamula.

As for the telecast of the NFL's ultimate offseason event, ESPN remained a step behind Twitter, but that didn't diminish one of analyst Jon Gruden's best nights in years. If Gruden was this good, candid and critical on "Monday Night Football," I wouldn't have to watch with the sound turned down.

Gruden was brutally honest and accurate, such as when he identified Cutler as one of the four quarterbacks on the spot next season.

He clearly did his homework on this draft class, which made his opinion on the Bears' selection of Long even more telling.

"I haven't seen enough of him to comment,'' Gruden said.

A man who thoroughly had researched every potential first-round selection saying nothing about the Bears' choice said everything.

dhaugh@tribune.com

Twitter @DavidHaugh