Long lucky he can relax heading into NFL draft
By Barry Wilner
NEW YORK ó The anxiety, uncertainty and lack of control that go with being a top NFL prospect can be maddening. Jake Long sits back and laughingly scoffs at it. And why not: Long already knows where heís going, and when.
The Miami Dolphins made the Michigan tackle a very rich young man by signing him to a five-year contract worth $57.75 million, $30 million of it guaranteed. He will be the first name announced at Saturdayís NFL draft.
iItís a relief and itís comforting to know the contract is done,î Long said Thursday. iTo know where I will be and where I will play, now I can relax. I can worry only about football and work only on football.î
The situation is vastly different for the other 252 players who will be chosen in two rounds on Saturday and another five on Sunday at Radio City Music Hall. From the stud who will go right after Long to the placekicker hoping to be taken somewhere ó anywhere ó itís a nervous time.
iYou have no choice where you go, but of course you get anxious,î said LSU defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey, like Long an All-American. iSo you go (online) and check out what they got on the team. But you canít get a read on what theyíll do.î
Virginia defensive end Chris Long and Arkansas running back Darren McFadden also were All-Americans in 2007. They joined Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan and Ohio State DE Vernon Gholston at a luncheon Thursday, where all but Jake Long admitted to being antsy.
iYeah, I guess they would be,î the Dolphinsí newest addition said with a chuckle.
Itís not unusual for the first team picking in the draft to agree to terms with someone before the proceedings begin. But for it to happen so far before draft day is rare.
Miamiís decision not only stripped some drama from the draft, it eliminated any questions of who will go No. 1 on Saturday. So, whoís No. 2?
The Rams have shown particular interest in Dorsey, Chris Long and Gholston to bolster a defense that allowed more points than anyone but Detroit last season. Chris Long said he liked the idea of playing on a defense ithat really goes after the quarterback,î and he felt in his interviews with St. Louis that would be the Ramsí approach.
But all of the teams in the top seven ó Atlanta, Oakland, Kansas City, the New York Jets, and New England ó are looking for defensive help.
Gholston, who played with plenty of Buckeyes who got drafted the last two seasons, hasnít been taking any advice from any former teammates. He wants to be on his own.
iYou talk to guys about the draft, but you donít really know what itís like until you experience it,î he said. iIt was the same with the combine. All draft experiences are different. One guy will say it was terrible because he didnít go where he wanted to. Another guy will say it was great because he went before he expected to.
iI think it comes down pretty much to your own personal experiences.î
The one scenario none of the six players on hand at Chelsea Piers wants to imagine is what happened to quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers in 2005 and Brady Quinn last year: a nose-dive to the back end of the first round.
Although there has been some strong debate whether Ryan is a franchise quarterback, itís unlikely he or any of the others who will attend the draft will go into a freefall. The Falcons, Chiefs and Ravens (eighth overall) could use a quarterback.
The three defensive players figure to be gone by the time the Ravens are on the board, and so does McFadden, quite possibly to the Raiders or Jets.
iIíll go anywhere, to any system,î McFadden said, iand Iíll just play ball. I will fit in.î