The Los Angeles Rams have been bringing in linebackers in the wake of Mark Barron’s departure. West Virginia Mountaineer David Long looks like a solid option in the middle rounds of the 2019 NFL Draft. While Devin Bush from Michigan gets all the praise, Long does a lot of the same things as Bush and might come a few rounds cheaper. Long improved each year at West Virginia and was explosive in 2018. Long comes in at 5’11” and 227 pounds and was a three year starter for the Mountaineers.
College stats and honors:
2018: 108 tackles, 79 solo, 19.5 for loss, 7 sacks, 4 pass breakups, 1 fumble recovery, 2 forced fumbles.
Career: 246 tackles, 169 solo, 39.5 for loss, 12.5 sacks, 10 pass breakups, 2 fumble recoveries, 2 forced fumbles.
Honors: 2nd team All-American (2018), Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year (2018), 1st team All Big-12 (2018), Butkus Award semifinalist (2018), 2nd team All-American per Pro Football Focus (2017), 1st team All-Big 12 per ESPN (2017), Honorable Mention All-Big 12 per coaches (2017), West Virginia Defensive Player of the Year (2017).
Long is a shifty linebacker that plays downhill against the run. He is not afraid to stick his nose in and hit people despite his size. Extremely quick to shoot gaps leads to tackles for loss.
Long has good awareness and has good reaction time. Possesses a high motor player who is active around the ball. Good at avoiding blockers to make plays. He’s excellent at dropping into zone coverage and keeping his eyes on the quarterback. Showed the ability to hold his own at the Senior Bowl. Long has sideline to sideline speed. His quickness and aggression allows him to disrupt a lot of plays.
At times Long can be overly aggressive which leads to too many missed tackles. Additionally, he struggles to shed blocks like most undersized linebackers do. He will take some poor angles at times taking himself out of the play. Instincts could be better.
Small stature makes him a possible liability against larger tight ends in man coverage. Long will get swallowed up by stronger offensive linemen if he doesn’t react quickly enough. Injuries may be a concern, missing time with a knee injury in 2017 and didn’t participate in the NFL Combine or his Pro Day due to a high ankle sprain.
Expected Draft round:
Long is an undersized linebacker that plays with the demeanor of someone much larger. His sideline to sideline ability along with his plus coverage make him a fit in today’s NFL. He is insanely good at shooting gaps, imagine if Aaron Donald was an undersized linebacker. Long can also rush the passer from the edge or as a blitzer. More athletic than instinctive, Long has the potential to develop into a really good linebacker if he cleans up a few things.
When I watch his tape I imagine getting Devin Bush at a fraction of the cost. Long is a high motor player who can make an impact on special teams as well. I expect Long to be drafted in the 4th round. Some teams will shy away because of size or injury history, but Long is a disruptive force when on the field and didn’t miss a lot of time in college.
Jatavis Brown, Brian Rolle