Entering the NFL:
With great power comes great responsibility.
Being the No. 1 selection in the draft is quite an honor, and to hear your name first amongst your fellow classmates is quite a thrill. As you walk across the podium with streams of flashes ignited, you're the first to shake the hand of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who welcomes you to the league.
But that welcome usually becomes a warning as the top selection ends up with the worst team.
Not since 1997 has their been an offensive tackle taken No. 1 overall, when the St. Louis Rams selected Ohio State standout Orlando Pace. But since '97, there have only been six tackles taken in the top five: Chris Samuels (3rd overall in 2000), Mike Williams (4th overall in 2002), Robert Gallery (2nd overall in 2004), D'Brickashaw Ferguson (4th overall in 2006), Joe Thomas (3rd overall in 2007) and Levi Brown (5th overall in 2007).
Michigan's Jake Long is considered to be one of three candidates (Jake Long, Chris Long and Vernon Gholston) this year to be the top player selected. But the Dolphins targeted Long as the first prospect they entered preliminary contract negotiations with, and it has caused speculation that he's the player the Dolphins have identified as the top pick.
If that's the case, the situation Long faces in Miami is eerily familiar to the one Iowa OT Robert Gallery was drafted into when he went to Oakland.
Just like Gallery, Long would arrive in Miami with a new regime in place - with Bill Parcells making the decisions in the front office and former Cowboys assistant head coach/offensive line coach Tony Sparano making the decisions on the field - and will ultimately be an immediate starter from day one.
Long's versatility gives the Dolphins options, but without a solid quarterback and a reliable running back, as well as inexperienced wide receivers, the potential impact Long may have on the Dolphins will go unnoticed and leave the door open for criticism.
The offensive line situation doesn't bode well for Long . The Dolphins signed free agent guard Justin Smiley this off season away from the San Francisco 49ers, but the team still needs to acquire a left guard, unless they plan on starting journeyman Trey Darilek. If the season started today, the average age of the starting offensive line is one of the youngest in the league at 25 years old.
Depending on the coaching staff's preference, Long will play right or left tackle, most likely left tackle, and allow former first round pick Vernon Carey to move back to his natural right tackle position where he played prior to the 2007 season.
Without the presence of an All-Pro lineman to help Long develop, it will be an on the job training approach in Miami. Even though Long appears to be a quality lineman and one of the top prospects in this draft, he won't have the luxury of having a solid cast of linemen surrounding him. He will also be in an offense that doesn't have the offensive weapons that would help him gain the recognition he deserves.
Entering the NFL:
The NFL Draft process is not an exact science. You can attend every game in a player's career, go back and review all of the film, interview him at the Scouting Combine and take him out to dinner to find out what kind of person he really is, but all of that doesn't matter until you take a leap of faith and throw him into the fire in a league full of men.
"If you entered all the (components) into the computer, and it spit out the model of what an NFL offensive left tackle is supposed to look like, it would be that guy right there," said Buffalo Bills offensive line coach Jim McNally of Gallery at the 2004 Scouting Combine."He sure looks like a player, doesn't he?"
That's at least what the Oakland Raiders believed when they drafted Gallery with the second pick in the 2004 draft. Gallery had everything you looked for in a offensive tackle: size, speed, athleticism, experience, versatility and technique. But the one thing he was lacking was ability to play every down with a consistent mean streak that would give him the edge to dominate.
The reason for the inconsistent play can easily be placed on Gallery's shoulders. But from the time he entered the league until now, he's moved around more on the offensive line than any lineman in the league.
Gallery's situation in Oakland was unstable from the start. The Raiders didn't have an identity and hired a new head coach, Norv Turner, to try and figure out the direction the team was headed.
Drafting a versatile offensive lineman like Gallery gave Oakland the mind set that he was a guy who could play anywhere on the line and dominate, regardless of the position.
Gallery was an exceptional left tackle at Iowa, and when he was drafted, the Raiders toyed with the idea of playing him at guard, and he even saw some action at guard in his first game. But after his first game, Gallery was moved to right tackle where he played for two seasons (2004-2005).
In 2006, Gallery finally got the opportunity to start at his comfortable left tackle position and played well, but was plagued by injuries that forced him to miss six games.
This past season, Gallery was healthy and ready to get back to play LT, but the Raiders decided that guard was the best position for him and he started every game at LG.
Entering his fifth season, the expectations have dwindled for this once promising prospect that many believed was going to be a perennial Pro Bowl lineman. The word "bust" follows Gallery everywhere he goes, but he's been fairly durable throughout his career, playing in 58 of a possible 64 games.
He's still a young player (27), who has a chance to revive his career in an offense that has a new starting quarterback every season. This year is no different, as the JaMarcus Russell era begins in Oakland.
Maybe with another year at the guard position, Gallery will finally realize his true potential.
The NFL Draft is a few weeks away, and it's never too soon to project the prospects. Scout.com's NFL…