DRAFT 2008: OFFENSIVE LINEMEN

Jake Long, an offensive tackle from the University of Michigan, could be the first overall selection by the Miami Dolphins in the 2008 NFL Draft. If he is, he would be the first offensive tackle selected first overall since 1997 and the second since 1968.

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Michigan Offensive Tackle Long Could Be First Player Selected

INDIANAPOLIS – Jake Long, those analyzing the NFL Draft will tell you, has plenty of the skills that make for a big-time offensive lineman.

Good feet. Good size. Good athleticism.

But Long, a left tackle from the University of Michigan who could be the No. 1 overall selection in the April 26-27 NFL Draft, has another attribute – honesty – that he demonstrated at the NFL Scouting Combine at the RCA Dome in downtown Indianapolis in late February.

There, Long was asked about his two most noteworthy college statistics – two sacks allowed in four seasons and two penalties committed.

The first, he said, was accurate. The second?

Well, he may have been called for just two penalties, he said . . .

"Absolutely, I'll admit that I hold," Long said. "I'll get my hands inside and hide it that I'm holding. I try to hide it so that the refs can't see it. I think it is a skill if you can get away with it and not get caught.

"I try to make sure I get my hands inside every single play so that if I do hold a little bit the refs will not be able to see it."

Long, a four-year starter for the Wolverines, currently could be negotiating with the Miami Dolphins, according to various news reIf the sides reach agreement, Long is expected to the first offensive tackle selected No. 1 overall in the draft since 1997, when the St. Louis Rams made Orlando Pace the first overall selection.

Before that, no left tackle was selected first overall since Ron Yary of the Minnesota Vikings in 1968.

Long is a worthwhile selection to join that group, Kansas City Chiefs Head Coach Herm Edwards said.

"He's got all the tools," Edwards said. "He's big, he's pretty athletic, pretty good feet. He's a guy if you draft, you know he's going to be a great tackle for 10 years.

"Will he struggle at times? Yeah. All rookie tackles do. When they play against the speed he's going to play against week in and week out, that's the difference in our league compared to college. In pro football, you're going to get that good end every week.

"His ability to deal with that, how he reacts when he gets beat, that's going to be important."

Which wasn't something Long dealt with much in college. Before this past season, he had allowed one sack in three seasons. This season, the lone sack he allowed was to Ohio State defensive end Vernon Gholston, who many believe also will be a Top 5 selection next week.

"I take it personally," Long said. "I wanted to make sure that I was perfect and not let up a sack, but Vernon is a great player and he had a good move on me and I let it up."

Long's penalties came in his first and last seasons. As a freshman in 2004, he was called for holding. This past season, he had a false start against Northwestern, but he said statistics weren't his greatest source of pride while at Michigan.

That source? Being named team captain not once, but twice.

"That's the greatest honor that I could ever receive coming out of Michigan," Long said. "To just get captain once, and then get it twice, was a great honor. To know you have that respect from your teammates. I try to live up to it every day and live by example."

Long has played both right tackle and left tackle at Michigan, starting his career on the right side, then moving to the left – which is traditionally a more high-profile, pass-protecting position – for his final two seasons.

"I love the left side," Long said. "I started off my first two years at right tackle and moved over to left the last two years. I'm left-handed and I feel very comfortable on that side. I think I proved myself as a left tackle."

Which Long said was one reason he stayed for his senior season.

A year ago, Long said he didn't believe he was ready for the NFL. Now, he said he believes he is not only ready, but that he can play left tackle immediately. Observers believe he can, too – perhaps well enough be the first left tackle selected first overall in more than a decade.

"I just really wanted to improve my pass sets," Long said. "Two years ago was my first time on the left side. I wasn't really used to the pass sets on that side. I got a lot more fluid this year with my pass sets. Just working on my hands, certain rush moves.

"It has helped me a lot. Last year I didn't feel I was good enough to come out, I wanted to improve on things, and those things I improved on. I feel I'm a smarter and better player than I was last year. I'm smarter in identifying the defenses.

"I worked on the little things in my game and I've gotten a lot better."

Breaking Down the Top Offensive Tackles

Many analysts consider this one of the best offensive tackle classes in recent memory not only at the top of the draft, but throughout the later rounds. At least four players at the position are expected by many to be selected in the first with round, with Jake Long of Michigan possibly being the first player selected overall by the Miami Dolphins. Long reportedly is negotiating with the Dolphins, and if an agreement is reached, Long likely will be the first selection. If not, few believe he will slip out of the top five. Ryan Clady of Boise State, Chris Williams of Vanderbilt and Jeff Otah of Pittsburgh also have been projected by many to be first-round selections, with some projecting Gosder Cherilus of Boston College into the Top 20. Sam Baker of Southern California also has been projected into the first round.

Offensive Tackles on the Colts' Roster

Ryan Diem, eighth NFL season; Tony Ugoh, second NFL season; Charlie Johnson, third NFL season; Michael Toudouze, second NFL season; Dan Federkeil, third NFL season; Corey Hilliard, second NFL season.

THE OFFENSIVE TACKLES

A look at the offensive tackles 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, Jake Long, 6-7, 313, Michigan, 1

2, Ryan Clady, 6-6, 309, Boise State*, 1

3, Chris Williams, 6-6, 315, Vanderbilt, 1

4, Jeff Otah, 6-5, 332, Pittsburgh, 1

5, Sam Baker, 6-4, 309, USC, 1-2

6, Gosder Cherilus, 6-6, 315, Boston College, 1-2

7, Anthony Collins, 6-5, 317, Kansas*, 2-3

8, Carl Nicks, 6-4, 335, Nebraska, 2-3

9, Oniel Cousins, 6-3, 304, UTEP, 3-4

10, Barry Richardson, 6-6, 335, Clemson, 4-5

11, Tony Hills, 6-6, 301, Texas, 4-5

12, Kirk Barton, 6-4, 310, Ohio State, 4-5

13, Pedro Sosa, 6-5, 298, Rutgers, 5-6

14, John Greco, 6-4, 318, Toledo, 5-6

15, Duane Brown, 6-4, 305, Virginia Tech, 5-6

16, King Dunlap, 6-8, 310, Auburn, 5-6

17, Demetrius Bell, 6-6, 288, Northwestern State, 6-7

18, Geoff Schwartz, 6-6, 332, Oregon, 7

19, Corey Clark, 6-6, 315, Texas A&M, 7

20, William Robinson, 6-5, 297, San Diego State, 7

Breaking Down the Top Offensive Guards

As is usually the case, there are no "pure" guards projected in the first round. Brandon Albert of Virginia, listed by most analysts as a guard, is projected as a first-rounder, but many analysts and observers believe he will play offensive tackle in the NFL. Some mock drafts have Albert as high as No. 13 to Carolina while others have him being selected in the second round. Aside from Albert, just two players at the position are projected to go on the first day of the draft, which this year consists of two rounds. Southern California guard Chilo Rachal has been projected by many as a solid second-rounder, with Roy Schuening of Oregon State also a second-round possibility.

Offensive Guards on the Colts' Roster

Ryan Lilja, fifth NFL se

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