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Steelers Potential Draft Pick Profiles: Jake Long (We Can Dream At Least, Can't We?)

A new week, and what do you know, a new series here on BehindtheSteelCurtain. And perhaps our biggest undertaking to date. It's time to start profiling college players as we approach next April's Draft. I say 'our' for several reasons. One, cgolden has again kindly offered to help out and two, you guys are going to need to jump in and fill in lots of holes. There's only so much, if any at all, that I truly know about these guys. But collectively, with the help of some people I plan on bringing in for guest opinions, we should be able to have some fun with this and get a good feel about the latest crop of talent ready to enter the National Football League. I'm not just talking about first rounders either. We have heard about many of the 1st Rounders, and by the time the Draft actually commences later next month, you'll have heard more than you'll ever care to know about those guys who are projected to go in Round 1 and to a certain extent Round 2. But I bet there's plenty of names you've never heard of that will be selected in Rounds 3-6, some of whom are likely to leave their mark on the league for many years. So, the plan is to make our way through the first day potential picks and then learn a bit more about some of the hidden gems that should still be available on Day 2. Let's get to it:

First off, a bit about the thought process of how to go about this. We could either go down some 'experts' board sequentially and discuss what we know or what has been said/written about that player. Or we could go by position, which is what I think is best. That's at least how we'll get things started, though I reserve the right to change my mind :)

Though many think our most pressing need is at CB, I, as well as many of you, think we should draft an offensive linemen in the first round. Because this year's draft is supposedly one of the deepest in recent memory at the tackle position, let's start there. The undisputed #1 Tackle in this year's draft is....

Jake Long

Make no mistake about it, there's absolutely zero chance Long is still on the board when the Steelers are on the clock with the 23rd overall pick. For that reason, we won't spend too much time profiling Long, the 2006 and 2007 Big 10 Offensive Lineman of the Year.

Long stands at a hulking 6'7", and at just 300 pounds, he probably has plenty of room to add a few extra pounds of muscle. Despite being so tall, there are very few reservations about Long's footwork. Long gave up only one sack last year as a senior, and his ability to avoid costly holding penalties has been highly discussed and lauded by scouts and draft gurus alike. Long should be able to protect a right-handed QB's blind side well in the pros as a left tackle. He's left handed, so logic dictates that he should be able to use his most powerful hand pushing pass rushers off course on the outside, rather than having to use the off-hand like most left tackles are forced to do. I'm not sure if that's important but my initial thought is that it can't hurt.

At the Combine, Long's 37 repitions benching 225 pounds were tied for the best mark with Ohio State's Vernon Gholston. Simply put, the kid's a specimen and should immediately provide stability to whichever NFL bottom feeder he winds up being selected by. And like many offensive linemen who find themselves atop mock boards, Long's intelligence was off the charts as well during interviews and tests at the Combine. Add it all together and you're looking at a guy who's guaranteed to go in the top-10.

A corn-fed behemoth with both a mean streak and a
high IQ. Sounds like a sound way to use a high draft
pick to me.

One quick stat that is absolutely remarkable: Long was called for just one holding penalty in his entire career at Michigan! That's ridiculous. Granted, slowing down NFL pass rushers is nothing like holding back the slow-afoot guys of the Big 10, but nevertheless, if nothing else, that proves he never took a play off, despite knowing he was simply better than who he was lined up against. I have no doubt that whoever nabs Long early on will be happy with their investment for years to come.