DRAFT 2008: DEFENSIVE ENDS

University of Virginia defensive end Chris Long, son of Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive tackle Howie Long, is projected by many to be one of the first two players selected in the 2008 NFL Draft. Chris Long said his father has no desire to steal his spotlight.

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Son of Hall of Famer Projected by Many as Top Five Selection in 2008 NFL Draft

INDIANAPOLIS – The "situation" in the Long family is notable these days in part because it's not a "situation" at all.

Chris Long is well-known, and getting more so.

He was a standout defensive end at the University of Virginia, a player so dominant in college he had his number retired before leaving school. Soon, he will be a top selection in the 2008 NFL Draft, possibly No. 1 overall.

Long's father, Howie, was a Pro Football Hall of Fame tackle with the Oakland Raiders. He is an analyst for FOX SYet, when it comes to Chris, he is notably silent.

No urge to take credit, Chris says. No need for a share of the notoriety.

No "situation" at all.

"It's testament to the fact that he's such a great guy and such a humble guy," Chris Long said during the NFL Scouting Combine at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis.

"It's not his style to want to steal the spotlight from his sons. I have two little brothers and he does the same with them. He takes the backseat. Everybody has a time and this is our time."

Not that Chris is beyond teasing his famous father.

"I've said, 'Dad, you're an old man now. It's not your time anymore,''' Chris Long said. "He has done a great job with that and I am grateful. I've matured to the point that now I am comfortable sharing that spotlight."

Chris' share is expected to increase dramatically on April 26, the first day of the 2008 NFL Draft. He is widely considered a certain top five selection, with many observers and analysts projecting him either No. 1 overall to the Miami Dolphins or No. 2 overall to the St. Louis Rams.

The reasons are simple, according to those who judge talent.

Long, at 6-foot-3, 272 pounds, is not only a prototypical "3-4" defensive end, he is versatile enough to play linebacker.

He also is a high-energy player who personnel officials say rarely takes a down off.

And he is ready to make an impact in the NFL immediately.

"There aren't a lot of 3-4 college defenses and the way Chris plays in (Virginia coach (Al) Groh's defense, he's as NFL ready as you can be from a 3-4 standpoint," Pittsburgh Steelers Director of Football Operations Kevin Colbert said. "He plays a very difficult technique and he does it very well so he's a perfect 3-4 defensive end. Could he stand up and be a linebacker? Absolutely. He's, I'd say, rare for a college defensive lineman, especially more specific to a 3-4 defense."

Billy Devaney, the executive vice president of player personnel for the Rams, said of Long, "I think he's good. He's a tremendous run-down player. He's an effort pass rusher. Every play, you have to block him to death and if you let up, that's where he's going to get his sacks from."

Devaney compared Long to former Virginia end Patrick Kerney, who led the NFC in sacks with 14.5 for the Seattle Seahawks this past season. Devaney was with the Atlanta Falcons in 2006, the last of Kerney's eight seasons with the Falcons.

Kerney, Devaney said, "was a lot like Long. He's a try-hard guy, a good athlete, but he's relentless. He's got the same mentality as Chris Long. Or Chris Long is just like Patrick."

Long said he sees little special about being tagged an "effort" player.

"I think that's just the way football is supposed to be played, at a high speed," Long said. "I'm not a guy who does things half-speed well. So it has been pretty natural for me to go that fast. That's the goal. You want to jump off the screen when people watch film of you. So the goal is to take your game to the next level so at the next level you can adjust that speed and then surpass it.

"My dad taught me to work hard and to be the same guy every day. If that's going 100 miles-per-hour and working hard, then that's what I'll do."

Long, who played four seasons for Virginia, recorded 22 sacks in college, including 12 this past season. He had 43 tackles for loss, and broke up 17 passes, finishing sixth on the school's all-time sacks list and becoming the first player in school history to have his jersey retired while still active.

The biggest question around Long is his NFL position. Some observers consider him an end, which was where he played in a 3-4 scheme at Virginia. Others believe he will play rush linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. He participated as a defensive end at the combine, but worked out as a linebacker at his Pro Day on March 19 in Charlottesville, Va.

"I can see myself fitting in wherever a team wants and needs me to fit in," Long said. "Being versatile is a plus and I believe I have the capabilities of being versatile at the next level. I am going to have to work hard and I'm going to have to make some adjustments.

"One thing you have to do is check any expectations at the door. I don't expect to play any position or anything like that. I just want to be a football player."

Breaking Down the Top Defensive Ends

Defensive ends are always a premium on draft day, and this year's class is considered a strong group, particularly in the first round. At least seven are considered potential first-round possibilities, with two – Chris Long of Virginia and Vernon Gholston of Ohio State – considered certain to be selected among the first seven-to-eight players selected. Long, the son of Hall of Fame defensive tackle Howie Long, is generally considered the top end in this year's draft and is considered a prototype defensive end for a 3-4 scheme. Many mock drafts have him going No. 1 overall to the Miami Dolphins and few analysts believe he will slip past the St. Louis Rams at No. 2 overall. Gholston generally is considered by observers to be the sixth or seventh player available, and most mocks have him being selected by the New York Jets No. 6 overall. Phillip Merling of Clemson is considered a certain first-rounder, and some boards have Derrick Harvey of Florida as high as No. 7 to New England. Harvey widely is considered likely to be among the first 15 players selected, with Quentin Groves of Auburn projected as a first-round possibility and Calais Campbell of Miami and Lawrence Jackson of Southern California typically projected as late first-round selections.

Defensive Ends on the Colts' Roster

Dwight Freeney, seventh NFL season; Robert Mathis, sixth NFL season; Josh Thomas, fifth NFL season; Jeff Charleston, second NFL season; Ben Ishola, first NFL season.

THE DEFENSIVE ENDS

A look at the defensive ends in the 2008 NFL Draft. Rankings and projected rounds are based on several national draft publications and in no way reflect the opinions of Colts personnel.

Rank, Player, Ht., Wt., School, Projected Round

1, Chris Long, 6-3, 272, Virginia, 1

2, Vernon Gholston, 6-3, 266, Ohio State*, 1

3, Phillip Merling, 6-4, 276, Clemson*, 1

4, Derrick Harvey, 6-5, 271, Florida*, 1

5, Quentin Groves, 6-3, 259, Auburn*, 1

6, Calais Campbell, 6-8, 290, Miami (Fl)*, 1-2

7, Lawrence Jackson, 6-4, 271, USC, 1-2

8, Chris Ellis, 6-4, 263, Virginia Tech, 2-3

9, Cliff Avril, 6-3, 253, Purdue, 3-4

10, Jason Jones, 6-5, 273, Eastern Michigan, 3-4

11, Jonal Saint-Dic, 6-0, 254, Michigan State, 3-4

12, Wallace Gilberry, 6-2, 268, Alabama, 4-5

13, Kenny Iwebema, 6-4, 274, Iowa, 4-5

14, Darrell Robertson, 6-5, 250, Georgia Tech, 4-5

15, Tommy Blake, 6-2, 272, Texas Christian, 5-6

16, Chris Harrington, 6-4, 255, Texas A&M, 5-6

17, Jeremy Thompson, 6-5, 264, Wake Forest, 5-6

18, Brian Johnston, 6-5, 277, Gardner-Webb, 5-6

19, Kendall Langford, 6-5, 287, Hampton, 5-6

20, Chase Ortiz, 6-2, 249, Texas Christian, 5-6

21, Angelo Craig, 6-4, 252, Cincinnati, 6-7

22, Eric Foster, 6-2, 265, Rutgers, 6-7

23, Adam Oliver, 6-4, 268, Georgia Tech, 6-7

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