Welcome to Draft Week! This Thursday marks the start of the 2021 NFL Draft live from Cleveland, Ohio. We’ll be doing a deeper dive on the handful of prospects BC is offering up leading up to draft day. Today, we’re taking a closer look at tight end extraordinaire, Hunter Long.
The Exeter, New Hampshire native had a spectacular career on the Heights. He amassed 89 receptions, 1,297 yards, and nine touchdowns, mostly in two seasons. He excelled in two different systems under Addazio and Hafley, something he pointed out at his pro-day presser. Of course, this past season he took a bigger step forward, leading all tight ends nationally in receptions and targets, and placing second in receiving yards. He was awarded a whole host of accolades in his time from All-ACCs to some All-American teams, and went on to shine at the Senior Bowl not too long ago.
The 6-5, 254 pound tight end will be pushing to be the second tight end selected in the draft behind Florida’s Kyle Pitts. He certainly has a chance to achieve this feat, but is neck and neck with some similar rated prospects.
He’s proven to be an exceptional route runner with natural pass catching abilities. The size is evident, and he’s no slow-poke either though that seems to be a slight ding. At BC’s Pro Day, Long ran a respectable 4.6-4.7 40 yard. The way he strides and uses his body I like to think makes up for the ‘modest’ athleticism. He makes great use of his hands and comes down with pretty much everything.
As a blocker, Long holds his own and has shown more than enough experience. However, that play strength, consistent aggression, and run blocking has been a critique among analysts. Nevertheless, he still has shown a knack for fighting for more yards after the catch.
NFL.com gives Long a 6.17 grade which translates to “a good backup who could be a starter.” But beyond all of those cliché strengths and weaknesses, Hunter has a little bit extra because he’s brilliant. Lest we forget all of those broadcast mentions of him building his own computer. He can even solve a Rubik’s Cube in less than a minute. The intelligence translates to the gridiron.
When will Hunter likely be selected? We’re mostly looking at Day 2, and hoping for an AJ Dillon like surprise from last year, but Round 3 is the current projection.
When might not matter, so much as who he gets drafted by. Fit is so important, and the right staff can make or break even the best of products. Long should be able to transition to the NFL seamlessly, which opens a lot of doors for the team that need a complete, modern tight end or just need a solid insurance policy. Honestly, nearly every team could pick Hunter Long and has been mocked accordingly. He could be the Hunter Henry replacement for the Chargers, join the ranks of the Ravens tight ends, or add to the offensive system in Carolina.
Here are the teams that have “a top five need” at tight end in order of draft selection per NFL.com: Jaguars, Jets, 49ers, Bengals, Panthers, Chargers, Washington Football Team, Colts, Titans, Saints, Bills, and Chiefs. Add on top of that a number of other teams like the Cowboys, Eagles, and Rams all have TE as a primary need according to the Draft Network. The more you research, the more you realize every team could find a reason to take Hunter Long in around the third round. Alright, maybe not the Patriots anymore. But then again... Anyways, I’ll put on my mock draft hat and send Hunter to Carolina at 73.
For the draft, Long will be back home with his family. Prior to, he was training in California before making a cameo at this past weekend’s Spring Game. Friday will be a big day for the unheralded recruit, but he’s ready for this next challenge.
Best of luck, Hunter!