They have been called "big uglies," "hogs" and even "big hog mollies."
But never before have they been called the most coveted players in the draft.
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- Howie Long
- Phil Emery
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Six offensive linemen were taken with the first 11 picks, and nine were taken in the round. That's 28 percent of the first round.
The selection of Long was not typical. The Bears had not taken a guard in the first round in the last 52 years. The last was Roger Davis in 1960.
General manager Phil Emery said in the last 25 years, there had not been a draft in which more than six offensive linemen were taken by the 20th pick. Long was the eighth offensive lineman taken.
"The trend for the last five years is going toward offensive linemen and defensive lineman," Emery said.
Reinforcing the importance of pass protection in the NFC North was the Lions' drafting of defensive end Ziggy Ansah with the fifth pick, the Vikings' selection of defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd with the 23rd pick and the Packers' selection of defensive end Datone Jones with the 26th pick.
Floyd, projected to be a top-10 pick, could be a force in Minnesota on a line with defensive end Jared Allen. He was one of the best value picks of the first round.
Jones gives the Packers six first-round picks and two second-rounders in their front seven.
So the selection of Long partly was about the value of the offensive line. But part of it was about the rare ability Emery saw in Long.
For the last 12 years, the Bears have been rating players with an athletic index score. Emery said Long had the highest rating of any guard over that time frame, and he also was "fifth or sixth" among offensive tackles.
Long certainly has the genes. His father, Howie Long, is a Pro Football Hall of Famer. His brother Chris Long was the second pick of the 2008 draft.
"His dad and brother think he's the best athlete in the family," Emery said.
Most teams projected Long to play guard, and Emery said Long will start out there. But one AFC front office man said he thought Long had left tackle feet.
"His arms are a little short, but he could be a left tackle," he said. "He is very quick-footed. He is still learning the position, but he has upside."
Long might play more than one position for the Bears.