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Arkush: I was wrong about Kyle Long

The Bears Kyle Long lines up for a Robbie Gould field goal in the fourth quarter during the Bears win over the Chargers 33-28 during the NFL preseason game Thursday, Aug. 15 at Soldier Field. (H. Rick Bamman - hbamman@shawmedia.com)

Listen up, please, everybody because this is the last time I'm going to waste space on this. I'm the guy who somewhat famously said, the first night of the 2013 NFL College Draft about 20 seconds after the Bears chose Kyle Long, that Phil Emery just blew that pick.

As I've already said a half dozen other times since that night, I WAS WRONG! You cannot preach over and over as I have over the past 30-plus years that it takes at least two years to evaluate a draft and then condemn a pick 20 seconds after it's made.

This is important for two reasons. One is that, with all six draft choices and three undrafted rookie free agents making this year's Bears roster, 2013 is going to very much be about the kids.

Secondly, I really like Kyle Long.

I am not on the Kyle for Canton bandwagon yet and I won't be for some time. He hasn't been near as dominant or outstanding to date as some media and way too many fans have tried to paint him.

But what he has shown is he's an excellent NFL offensive line prospect, probably best-suited for left tackle rather than guard, and he definitely earned the start at guard against the Bengals. Nothing has been handed to him just because he's the first-round pick.

What I am most pleased about for the Bears and their fans, though, is that Long appears to be an outstanding young man, the kind of guy you want in your locker room.

A rite of passage at Halas Hall is the rooks dress in the basement until the final roster is set. Labor Day was Long and the other rookies' first day at the adult table, and Kyle was the proverbial kid in the candy store.

We visited for a few minutes with what started as some good natured smack about my failed prediction. Most kids would have gloated. Hell, I would have gloated. Long did not.

He spoke sincerely about how grateful he is for the chance he's been given, the support he's received and even in a bit of awe over how far he's come so soon.

I hope he continues to improve and proves he can play, because I really like Kyle Long and I'm pretty sure I'm right this time when I say the Bears are lucky to have him.

As for the rest of the kiddie corps, my best guess is Marquess Wilson and Jordan Mills will be the most productive the most quickly. We just haven't seen enough to know if Wilson will ever be more than a three or a four. But Brandon Marshall will most certainly still command double teams and Alshon Jeffery could be the most improved player on the team.

Defenses can only stalk so many targets and Wilson will be the beneficiary. Mills does things naturally that players like J'Marcus Webb can't learn in three years. Whether he can handle the huge step up in competition will be an open question all year.

Jon Bostic is a nice looking prospect. But, unlike Long, he is only the starter because D.J. Williams can't be. The Bears just need him to be adequate until Williams is ready. He'll have all season to establish himself before the Bears have to decide next spring whether or not they need to acquire competition for him or an upgrade in the middle.

There is reasonable debate over whether Khaseem Greene and Cornelius Washington actually earned their roster spots or got priority because of their draft status. J.T. Thomas and Cheta Ozougwu could mount a real debate.

It's unlikely we'll learn anything tangible about Michael Ford, Zach Minter or C.J. Wilson soon.

It's a really good thing the Bears have deemed this many of their own rookies worth developing. Now, all we can do is check back in two years to see if they were right.

• Hub Arkush covers the Bears for Shaw Media and HubArkush.com. Write to him at harkush@shawmedia.com.

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