There was a collective groan that went up in Chicago when the Bears announced that they had selected offensive linemen Kyle Long with the 20th pick in the NFL draft. The consensus on Long was that he was at best a second round pick, but by the vast majority of opinions he was not a first round pick. There was a lot of better talent left on the board that the Bears could have targeted other important positions of need.
After the dust had settled most analysts and fans tried to find the positives in Long's game and immediately brought up the fact that Mike Mayock had Long rated as his 29th best player on the board. A few other analysts had similar projections to that of Mayock, but two aspects became the argument to defense Phil Emery.
The first argument is Long's athleticism, he graded out according to Emery as the most athletic offensive linemen at the NFL combine. Emery had Long rated as a nine in terms of athleticism which he described as "rare". Long certainly has the athleticism and you can see it on film in the five games that he played in. He's quick on the move, can move well laterally has good feet, all of the athletic qualities you look for in an offensive linemen.
The most ridiculous point being made about Long is his blood lines and how he's related to Howie Long and how his older brother Chris is a successful defensive end for the St. Louis Rams. That's all well and dandy, but you can't rely on that factor as the main argument when defending a draft pick. Just because a player is made up of a sperm milkshake of all the greatest offensive linemen of all time, doesn't mean he'll be a great player in the NFL.
Long is initially being projected to start out as an offensive guard for the Bears during the 20132 season, but I have a gut feeling he's going to wind up playing RT instead. Long and Bushrod are the two most athletic offensive tackles on the roster, they have the best feet and the best balance and that's going to ultimately be what wins out in making the starting OT decision. Long may very well start out at guard, but before the end of camp they'll be moving him out to RT and likely letting Brown , Slauson, Carimi and Mills compete to be the starting offensive guards.
When you move past the positives and the negatives surrounding Kyle Long you come down to what matters the most, production. I went and looked up the first year production of every offensive tackle taken after pick 15 in the NFL draft up until the end of the second round from 2008 until 2012. That works out to be roughly five seasons worth of games played, sacks, QB hits and overall pressures allowed. I would have considered players before the first round, but those stats are pointless because usually the players in the top half of the first round are good players and produce well as a result. I wanted to narrow the list down to a list of peers, and the results are interesting.
If Long is likely going to wind up being the starter at RT versus LG, I decided to average out the number of sacks, QB hits and pressures allowed by rookie offensive tackles from 2008 to 2012. Not every player between picks 15 and picks 64 wound being starters their rookie year, some did wind up being starters, but only 21 wound up starting a significant amount of games. I focused on players who started a fair number of games so that the statistical value for the sake of this analysis wouldn't be skewed positively or negatively. Out of 21 starting offensive tackles, the average number of sacks allowed in their rookie seasons was 5.66 sacks. The number of QB hits allowed for rookie starting offensive tackles was 6.19 and the number or pressures allowed was 23.52 on average.
So based on this simple statistical metric, what we can assume is that if Kyle Long is the starting right offensive tackle as a rookie for the Chicago Bears he'll likely give up anywhere between five to six sacks, six QB hits and over 23.5 QB pressures on the season.
The next metric to consider and I did this just for the 2012 season, the number of sacks allowed in the NFL on average by 57 starting offensive tackles who took a minimum of 50% of the offensive snaps. That number is 5.28 sacks allowed per offensive tackle in the NFL, whether it's as a starting RT or LT. The next metric obviously league wide average number of QB hits by starting offensive tackles, that figure on average is 6.10. The last metric is number of QB pressures allowed on average in the NFL in 2012, 24.78 which is above the average for rookies starting.
Now averages themselves don't tell the complete story, next you have to consider what is more likely to occur among rookie offensive tackles. Do rookie offensive tackles more frequently give up more five or more sacks according to this data? The answer is yes, out of 21 rookie offensive tackles 15 of those rookies gave up five or more sacks during their rookie year. That works out to be roughly 71-percent of rookies who give up five or more sacks on the season.
The next metric to consider is how many rookie offensive tackle give up more than the average of QB hits of 6 or more on a season. That answer is slightly lower than the 15, 12 rookies gave up 6 or more QB hits as rookies. Roughly 57-percent of rookies will give up more than the rookie average of 6.19 QB hits on the season. Last is the number of rookies who typically go over the average of 23 QB pressures in a season, that metric is 11 rookies out of 21 rookie starters.
So what kind of conclusion can we draw from this type of statistical data analysis? The likelihood is that Kyle Long will give up more sacks, more QB hits and more QB pressures than most of the starting offensive tackles did in 2012. Long is likely to give up over five sacks on the season, but likely no more than seven sacks, he'll likely give up over 6 QB hits, but likely no more than 9 QB hits, and lastly he'll likely give up over 24 QB pressures but not more than 30 QB pressures on the season.
Overall what Chicago Bears fans should expect is for Kyle Long to give up as much pressure as they're used to seeing from their starting offensive linemen. The likelihood that Long proves to be an immediate upgrade at the offensive tackle position as a rookie is against him. Can Long overcome the statistics working against him? Certainly he can, but his best chance will be around a 48-percent chance to crack through the total number of pressures allowed. He's got a roughly 29-percent chance of doing better in the sacks allowed department, and a 43-percent chance of bettering the total number of QB hits allowed on average during the 2012 season.