So to get a better sense of what the Rams picked up, I linked up with Anthony Broome of Maize n Brew, the SB Nation community for fans of the Wolverines.
A lot of the players the Rams picked up came from humbler origins on the recruiting trail. Not so with Long. He was part of that monster 2016 class which was Michigan Head Coach Jim Harbaugh’s first full haul in charge led by DL Rashan Gary with OL Ben Bredeson, Long, LB Devin Bush and others filling out the top 10 rake. But for a program like UM, you guys are used to bringing players of that caliber. Many don’t work out. When did you know Long was a legit hit?
You’re right in that Michigan is used to getting four and five-star type of guys, and many of them do not pan out. That really is just the nature of college football recruiting. Big-time prospects bust while unheralded recruits come in and outperform their ranking. For Long, it simply was him coming in and being a factor early on. The interesting thing about him is that he never had a ton of buzz among the fanbase because he did his job and did it quietly. Anyone that watched him play knew he was a good player, but often times people were not woke to just how good he was until you saw an analytics graphic from Pro Football Focus or something like that.
Long stepped into the starting role as a sophomore in 2017 and never looked back. You’ve seen plenty of him. What stands out from his skill set? What makes him an NFL-level cornerback?
His coverage skills are extremely impressive and as I said before, I think he sort of fell between the cracks because he did not create a ton of turnovers. You don’t have to when you erase the guy across from you.
Are there any concerns Rams fans should have? Much like when Long arrived in Ann Arbor to set up as young depth behind Jourdan Lewis and Channing Stribling, Long returns to LA knowing that Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters have the top spots on the depth chart locked down. What might he need to work on in his rookie season before becoming a full-time starter in 2020?
I wonder how he will fare if asked to play zone because Michigan played a lot of press and man coverage in his college career. When they went up against Ohio State this past year, guys like Parris Campbell and Terry McLaurin absolutely torched the back end of Michigan’s defense because they were simply out-athleted. The NFL is full of those guys, so that would certainly be a concern to me. I think he is more than capable, but in his situation it seems he won’t be rushed to be an instant-impact guy.
Obviously, you guys have been sending the NFL talent for...the entire history of football. There haven’t been a ton of Wolverine cornerbacks coming out though. Leon Hall has had a long go. Lewis seemed to get pushed out of Dallas’ rotation by and large last year. And Jeremy Clark is trying just to eke out a career. Obviously Rams fans remember former UM and former New England Patriots CB Ty Law. Not sure we remember him “well”, but let’s start there as a jumping off point for recency. Where does David Long rank on the list of recent corners? Could he join that tier of Hall and Law?
He is very good, but he is probably a tick below some of those elite names. I even think that Jourdan Lewis was a better player, but Long would be in that next tier to me.
This seems like a very, very, very big season for Michigan football. Obviously the Harbaugh era has been better than the years under Brady Hoke and Rich Rodriguez, but you guys have flirted with such high levels of success. The 2016 season fell off course by a hair’s breadth. Even last year, you guys moved all the way up to fourth before a certain late season game...but this year could be the one. You’re all but certain to be a preseason top 10 pick. There’s so much returning on offense for new Offensive Coordinator Josh Gattis to oversee. The schedule is littered with huge tests, but I could totally understand optimism from the fans this year. How are you feeling about this year? Is it confidence from all the strong bullets on the resume or are you a bit hesitant to buy in? Do you think Harbaugh can overcome his issues facing top 10 teams or are you worried the struggles will continue? And who are the major Wolverines in 2019 that NFL fans should keep an eye out for to filter up to our level in the years to come?
I am firmly in the “believe it when I see it camp.” They play all of their big games late in the year so they will be somewhat unproven until the stretch run. In theory, they have made all the necessary changes they had to make coming off of last season and now we just need to see it. I think the offense will be much more fun to watch, but there will still wind up being a feeling-out process. As far as NFL guys to keep an eye on, Shea Patterson has a chance to rocket up draft boards in an offense better suited to his skill-set as a passer and almost their entire wide receiver room has NFL-caliber guys. Being that Sean McVay loves his chess pieces, keep an eye on the wideouts in Donovan Peoples-Jones, Tarik Black and Nico Collins.
Thanks to Anthony for the time.