Getting no hype to begin the season is typical for lots of draft prospects who later go early. As the season goes along and their play becomes more noticed, they gain recognition and blow up from there. Such is true for Boston College TE Hunter Long, who, through the first two weeks, has been nothing short of impressive for the Eagles. Coming off a strong 2019, Long is already building upon a strong resume that shows an accomplished downfield receiving threat that is only polishing up the other aspects of his game. What has Long demonstrated thus far in 2020?
Long’s excellent Duke tape
Long had a great start to the season in the Eagles’ victory over Duke last Saturday. Not only did he showcase his athleticism and dynamic ability for his size, but he had a good rapport with new quarterback Phil Jurkovec already.
This play is rare for tight ends like Long. What Long nicely does here is attacking leverage. With a slight outside shade, Long stems this to the outside of the defender. That gets the defender flat-footed, so by the time he makes the cut, all he does is give a little shimmy to add more separation, and he becomes an open target over the middle of the field. The best tight ends in the NFL attack leverage like this and use it against defensive backs to separate.
With a defender draped all over him, Long makes a fantastic catch. To make the grab, he needs a few traits at his disposal. First off, Long does a great job of staying physical and using his given window to reel this in.
Second, this is excellent hand-eye coordination to watch the ball into his one hand. Even after all that, it is Long’s grip strength in his hand that keeps this ball where it is. His hands are vice grips.
The classic scramble drill is something every pass-catcher must master. Long does an outstanding job of seeing his quarterback and working with him to give him a big target in the end zone. He goes up, and high points the ball, and the catch technique is outstanding. Long grabs it away from his frame and then tucks it into his frame to secure it through contact to and get the touchdown. These are basic things that make such a big difference.
Long is showing how to separate here with his size and physicality. Not only does this show that long can work from an in-line position, but that he can work from the slot as a mismatch as well. Facing a smaller defensive back, Long leans his body into the defensive back, gives his a slight push, and gives an open window over the middle of the field. That is a fantastic trick for enough separation at the next level.
TE Hunter Long’s outlook
Long fits into the mold of athletic, physical tight ends that can stretch the field. More importantly, he has strong, secure hands and a knack for the subtleties of using his size and strength to separate. That, at the least, makes Long a translateable mismatch weapon at the next level. For a guy his size, he has solid quickness and fluidity in and out of his breaks, even if the route tree he runs at Boston College is not very expansive.
The main area Long will have to improve on is as an in-line blocker. Rather than getting trounced right off the snap, he will have to learn to lose slowly. That will come with a better hand technique.
However, given the mismatch weapon Long is, coaches should accept blocking deficiencies. Long is a big receiver right now that slot cornerbacks, safeties, and linebackers all have trouble handling, so blocking in many ways is minuscule. Given where Long is on tape, if he continues showing out as he did against Duke, do not be surprised if he is a day two pick.