Star Boston College tight end Hunter Long was drafted this past weekend in the 3rd round of the NFL Draft by the Miami Dolphins, and we can’t wait to see how he performs in the NFL under head coach, and fellow BC alum, Brian Flores. So we enlisted the help of our friend Kevin Nogle at The Phinsider to give us an idea of what the roster and scheme look like for the Dolphins and how Long will be fitting in this season and beyond.
How do you figure Hunter Long will slot into the TE depth chart right away?
He should be the number two tight end behind Mike Gesicki and, assuming he picks up the playbook and adjusts to the speed of the game, he will see plenty of playing time as a rookie. It is a tough position for the transition to the NFL sometimes, as we saw with Gesicki who only caught 22 passes for 202 yards as a rookie. Miami is looking to create a two-headed tight end monster, led by Gesicki and now hopefully with Long serving as the other side of that. Brian Flores and the coaching staff love to have versatile players that allow them to create mismatches. Having two tight ends who can be pass catchers is a big part of that goal.
This is a dream scenario for a player like Hunter Long. He doesn’t quite have the blocking skill set to be the guy in an NFL offense quite yet, but he’s a versatile player who can absolutely help out a team looking for variety in the passing game.
Are there noticeable skill gaps in the Dolphins’ TE group that Long may help with?
I think it is more of a case of finding talented players to add to the group than it was a specific skill set they were looking to add. Durham Smythe is a solid tight end who can catch passes, but an upgrade to Long changes that from a solid player to one who has the potential to be a special player at the position. I think this was simply a chance to add a high-potential player to get an upgrade.
Does the Dolphins’ offensive scheme give any noticeable edges to pass-catching or run-blocking tight ends? How does the current TE group stack up in that scheme?
Mike Gesicki is the move tight end that Miami can use out as a wide receiver or in line as a blocker. He came into the league with a lot of reports that he did not know how to block because he was not asked to do that at Penn State, but he has become an adequate blocker when needed. Durham Smythe came into the league as a blocking tight end, but has shown he has hands that can be a possession type of receiver when needed. And Adam Shaheen is an all-around tight end who earned a contract extension last year. Add in Long and you now have four tight ends (assuming the roster allows Miami to keep all four) that can be really effective.
How would you grade Tua’s pass-catching weapons right now?
Much better after the Draft. Finding Tagovailoa the weapons he needs to take the next step forward was the ultimate goal of this offseason and they did exactly that. DeVante Parker returns as the top receiver, with Will Fuller V signed in free agency playing opposite him. Then, sixth-overall pick Jaylen Waddle will likely start as the primary slot receiver, though he will see plenty of playing time outside as well. Bringing in a receiver from Alabama should allow Tua to immediately re-establish the chemistry between his college teammate and him, so hopefully Waddle’s learning curve gets at least a little less steep. Gesicki is an absolute beast ready to become a major name around the league. Preston Williams, an undrafted free agent receiver two years ago, flashes all kinds of potential, but he cannot seem to stay healthy. Overall, they have gotten a lot better this offseason, so now it is a matter of Tagovailoa coming out and using the weaponry around him.
Sounds a lot like an offense that’s ready to take a step forward this season. Long won’t be facing a lot of pressure to perform right away due to the number of weapons now at the Dolphins’ disposal. But as a pretty low priority for opponent defenses, he may be able to perform under the radar and be an important cog in an offense ready to make some noise.
Anything I haven’t covered that could have an impact on Hunter Long’s fit with Miami?
I think Long is going to be a factor in Miami’s offense for years to come. He may have a slow start to his career, just because that seems to happen with tight ends. I think, however, you are going to see Miami find creative ways to force mismatches using Gesicki and Long. That is what this pick is all about, and I think the coaching staff is already going to be imagining exactly what Long can be in South Florida.
The confidence Kevin has in Hunter Long’s fit with the Dolphins is very reassuring for Boston College fans! It very much sounds like Long is being set-up for success in a potentially potent offense that will give him time to develop into a great pass-catcher and contributor for a QB looking to establish chemistry with his receivers. All of us who have watched Long for the past 2 seasons know what a special pass-catcher he is, and it’s exciting that he’ll be getting a great opportunity in Miami to show off his skills.