“Over/Under” is a glance at a pair of players at each position; one who TDR believes in overrated, and one who we believe is underrated.
OVER: Kyle Long, G, Oregon
The first thing that stands out about Long is his massive height for the guard position. Long stands at a shade over 6-6, making him look much more like a tackle than an interior lineman. This is actually one of the things that detracts from his value as a guard. He height works against him as a run blocker, as he struggles to get his pad level low enough to get proper drive on defensive tackles.
One would think that Long would at least excel in pass protection, but the tape tells a different story. Especially against bull rushes, Long consistently gets pushed into the backfield, showing that his impressive wingspan can be outdone by his lack of overall lower body strength when compared to the bigger bodies that rush the passer from the inside.
His bloodlines are obviously undeniable, as the son of NFL Hall-of-Famer Howie Long, and the brother of St. Louis Rams DE Chris Long, and it’s always possible that may be part of what’s inflating his stock at this point. Long is an extremely athletic player for his size, but he seems like a bit of a ‘tweener who is too tall to play guard, but lacks the consistent pass blocking skills to move out to tackle. His stock has reportedly been on the rise of late, but I’m not convinced that Long deserves to go before the third round.
UNDER: Barrett Jones, C, Alabama
It’s hard to imagine anyone from Alabama’s offensive line being underrated, but Jones finds himself in that category, mostly due to his position. Not many premium picks are spent on centers these days, but it’s important to remember that Jones played tackle and guard for entire seasons, as well, and did it at the same high level. Jones actually started each of his three BCS National Championship games at a different spot.
Clearly he’s a versatile player, which makes him extremely valuable when it comes to injuries and personnel flexibility. But even at his current position, Jones could be one of the most valuable players taken in this draft. His combination of dominant run-blocking skills and consistent success in pass protection is rare at the position (and likely due to his experience playing all three OL positions at a high level in the SEC). Jones was indeed surrounded by elite talent, as well, but when you isolate him on film, he holds his own one-on-one with the best interior defenders the SEC had to offer. Jones did have surgery to repair a lis franc injury following the conclusion of the 2012 season, and the recovery will prevent him from working out at full strength before the draft, which could negatively affect his stock.
Jones is as impressive off the field, graduating summa cum laude with his Bachelor’s in Accounting, as well as finishing off his Master’s by the time he was done playing at Alabama, all the while maintaining a 4.0 GPA. That intelligence clearly carries over to the field, as he is a tireless technician when calling out assignments. Jones is also a fiery leader who will be an immediate and long-lasting presence in the locker room.
He likely won’t hear his name called until the late 2nd round at the earliest, but he will make an instant impact and will likely be a mainstay in the league for the next 12-15 years.