Out of all the players who are leaving the West Virginia Mountaineers this year, there is no one I will miss more than David Long. An undersized prospects, standing under 6’-0” tall, Long has “it”. However you choose to define it for a defensive football player, Long has that quality. He instinctively finds the football and quickly, strongly, and immediately brings down the ball carrier - often behind the line of scrimmage. There is a reason he is named Mr. TFL. Long missed the first four games of his sophomore year and still finished 4th in the Big 12 in tackles. Despite playing only 11 games last year due to a hurricane, Long finished with over 100 tackles. In his 2+ years starting, he had over 250 tackles and 40 tackles for loss.
You don’t collect 40 TFLs without the ability to immediately diagnose plays and Long does that with ease. He sees an opening before it appears and uses his speed and size to hit the hole harder than the running back. Because of this, Long has the ability to squeeze through blocks and still has shown the ability to shed blocks.
Most of the weaknesses for Long stem from his size. Teams like taller linebackers who can help disrupt the passing game and Long’s lack of height does provide some hesitation among NFL teams. Along with his lack of height, Long is more of a 2-down run stuffer than a linebacker who is going to run with running backs in open space. The strength in the run game is a weakness in the passing game, leading to missed tackles in open space where he can take a wrong angle.
Long projects more as a 4-3 Will, or weakside linebacker rather than a 3-4 backer. Some scouts view him as a tweener between safety and linebacker but he hasn’t shown enough in pass protection to be a good safety. He would be in the Roy Williams / Landon Collins mold of sure, strong tackler in the box but out of place in the deep middle. Long would provide good depth and production for a team like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
I think out of all of the Mountaineers that will be picked in the NFL Draft, outside of maybe Trevon Wesco if he goes to the right team, Long is going to have the most productive career. He has a nose for the ball and those type of players tend to stick around for a while.
Projection that will be wrong: David Long - pick 115, Carolina Panthers