NFC North: Chance Warmack

It's easy to make a list of why the Chicago Bears shouldn't have drafted Oregon guard Kyle Long.

  1. Long has a thin Division I resume, having played in 11 games during his only year at Oregon and starting less than half of them.
  2. He has a long list of character questions, including an academic performance so poor that he dropped out of Florida State after one year.
  3. He is projected to play a position that the NFL historically hasn't valued as a top-20 pick. In the previous 15 drafts, NFL teams had selected four guards in the top 20 and never more than one in a year. Thanks to the unique skills of guards Chance Warmack and Jonathan Cooper, Long was actually the third guard taken in the first 20 picks this year.
[+] EnlargeKyle Long
Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY Sports"It's hard to outweigh measurables because he's rare," Bears GM Phil Emery said of draft pick Kyle Long.
Now comes the hard part: Why did the Bears draft Long where they did? Thursday night, I figured that general manager Phil Emery would surely provide his reasons. And after reviewing his comments, it appears the Bears' assessment of Long's pure athletic traits overrode any concerns about experience and background. Emery also noted the NFL has trended toward offensive and defensive linemen at the top of recent drafts, elevating his assessment of where Long would and wouldn't be available.

"It's hard to outweigh measurables because he's rare," Emery said.

Emery and the Bears rely on a metric he referred to as the "Athletic Index Score," which measures players "where they are as athletes," he said. According to Emery, Long earned the highest ranking of any offensive guard over the past 12 draft classes. Indeed, Long ran the best 40 time (4.94 seconds) of any guard at the NFL scouting combine. That's pretty quick for a 6-foot-6, 313-pound man.

I won't pretend to know what else goes into the "Athletic Index Score" or how relevant it is for an interior lineman. Emery said Long's lateral agility and feet make his every movement during a play impressive.

Regardless, in any other year, Long almost certainly would have been an interesting second- or third-round prospect. But the Bears clearly felt they needed to skew their assessment of his likely draft value based on historical research.

"It's interesting because the trend the last five years, opposed to the previous 10-year average, the trend is going towards offensive linemen and defensive linemen -- pass protectors, pass rushers," Emery said. "It's almost doubled in both those areas in the last five years."

We will never know if the Bears could have drafted another player in the first round and then circled back to get Long in the second. But it's clear that Emery isn't beyond taking an independent value of the draft. He and his staff really liked Long -- "We've targeted him for the last couple weeks," Emery said -- and they weren't going to get caught up in value mirco-analysis on their way to drafting him.

It's no longer an absurd notion to suggest a team should seek out a long-term starting guard with the No. 20 overall pick. But can Long be that kind of player? Even Long wasn't sure if he was ready to answer that question -- he tried to return to Oregon for 2013 by declaring medical hardship -- but the Bears obviously think so. Man. He must be one heck of an athlete.
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What's the ideal first-round scenario for each team?

Chicago Bears: There are a number of hopeful scenarios for the Bears, but we've got to keep it reasonable. The Bears would no doubt be thrilled if one of the draft's top guards, Alabama's Chance Warmack or North Carolina's Jonathan Cooper, fell to them at No. 20. That doesn't seem likely, however, based on the current thinking of media analysts. Others might like to see Alabama right tackle D.J. Fluker available, but the Bears aren't desperate at the tackle position. The most ideal but reasonable scenario is Georgia middle linebacker Alec Ogletree falling to No. 20 because of off-field issues. Ogletree could be an immediate and long-term replacement for the departed Brian Urlacher, allowing the Bears to use D.J. Williams perhaps at the strong-side position.

Detroit Lions: We've discussed a scenario in which the draft's top two left tackles (Texas A&M's Luke Joeckel and Central Michigan's Eric Fisher), its top cornerback (Alabama's Dee Milliner) and arguably its most intriguing defensive end (BYU's Ezekiel Ansah) are all off the board at No. 5. So if the draft gods are looking kindly upon the Lions, they'll give them a choice of two of those players. There's no telling whom the Lions would pick, but Milliner or either of the left tackles would give them a good shot at having a really good anchor player for the next decade.

Green Bay Packers: I don't know how likely it is, but the Packers would no doubt love to see one of the draft's top defensive tackles make his way to their spot at No. 26 overall. Could that be Missouri's Sheldon Richardson? North Carolina's Sylvester Williams? Both players are natural interior disruptors, although Richardson might be on the smaller side for a 3-4 defense and could fit best as a 4-3 under tackle. There is little doubt that the Packers want to enhance their defensive line in this draft.

Minnesota Vikings: There are plenty of options for a team with two first-round picks, including trading up to get a coveted player or trading back to pile up second-round options. But here's an ideal scenario if the Vikings stay put: They draft a receiver with one pick, perhaps Tennessee's Cordarrelle Patterson or Cal's Keenan Allen, and a cornerback with the other. Houston cornerback D.J. Hayden has gotten a lot of publicity lately, but his value in the first round remains publicly uncertain. The Vikings have need at defensive tackle and middle linebacker as well, but those positions might be more heavily stocked later in the draft.

BBAO: Double chat alert!!!

April, 9, 2013
We're Black and Blue All Over:

Good morning. We're going to have not one but TWO opportunities for interaction Tuesday in various places here on (For some of you, it will be two chances rather than one to complain about lack of interaction time, but such is life.)

We'll start off with in a live chat module here on the blog at 12:15 p.m. ET, where AFC South blogger Paul Kuharsky and I will discuss some ideas for improving the game-day experience at NFL stadiums. Last week, you might recall, the NFL announced it would add cameras to the locker room to give fans at the stadium an exclusive look.

Kuharsky's response: If you want to improve the experience, lower concession prices. On Twitter, I suggested cracking down further on aggressive drunks in the stands, a topic I'll post more about on the blog in a few hours.

You are cordially invited to join that discussion once the chat module appears on the blog. We'll chat for about 45 minutes, and the entire string will be archived for those who miss it.

Then, at 2 p.m. ET, we'll have our regular SportsNation chat for those who want to discuss any other topic. It should be an interactive day.

For now, let's check out some local coverage around the NFC North: