The 2021 tight end class is one of the strongest groups in recent memory. Kyle Pitts, Brevin Jordan, and Pat Freiermuth all have Round 1 potential, but they’re no longer the only ones in the conversation. After a standout 2020 campaign, Boston College tight end Hunter Long is getting looks as one of the best tight ends in the 2021 NFL Draft, and there’s plenty of reason to be excited about his skill set at the next level.
Hunter Long NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Tight End
- School: Boston College
- Current Year: Redshirt Junior
- Height: 6’5 1/8″
- Weight: 254 pounds
- Wingspan: 83″
- Arm: 33 3/4″
- Hand: 9 3/4″
Tony Pauline’s Hunter Long Scouting Report
Positives: Nice-sized tight end with a reliable game. Fluid and natural as a pass catcher, nicely makes the reception on crossing patterns and adjusts to grabs the errant pass in stride. Tracks the pass in the air, displays terrific focus and concentration, and holds onto the catch after big hits. Uses his hands to separate from defenders and extends to make the reception away from his frame.
Plays with excellent balance and body control, knows where he is on the field, and uses the sidelines well. Possesses outstanding blocking vision, keeps his head on a swivel, and looks for someone to hit. Stays square and seals defenders from the action.[sv slug=”drizly”]
Negatives: Shows limited play speed and doesn’t stretch the seam. Must improve his playing strength and finish blocks.
Analysis: Long was a consistent, reliable tight end for Boston College and has a game that translates well to the NFL. He’s not flashy, nor is he a true playmaker, but he’s a natural pass catcher who holds his own as a blocker. I believe Long can develop into a starting NFL tight end, though he’ll never make big plays down the field.
Hunter Long Player Profile
Tight ends come in all shapes and sizes, but usually, they’re pretty big. Hunter Long wasn’t any different coming onto the college football stage. By his senior year in high school, the Exeter, New Hampshire native was 6-foot-5, 235 pounds. He didn’t waste any time checking the “size” box.
Despite this, Long didn’t attract a great deal of attention. Deerfield Academy wasn’t a hotbed for NFL talent, and Long flew under the radar.
He was only a three-star recruit on 247 Sports, and many of his early offers came from FCS and Division I-AA schools. When Long finally received interest from Division I-A schools, his offers came from teams like Massachusetts and Syracuse.
Long held out for a better fit, and he soon found it. Toward the end of his process, Boston College presented him with an offer. Hunter Long accepted and joined the Eagles program to contribute to their NFL Draft pipeline.
Hunter Long’s career as a Boston College tight end
Coming in at just 235 pounds, Long needed some time to build his frame and adjust to the college game. Thus, Long redshirted his freshman campaign. In 2018, Long gained some on-field experience, but he took a backseat to senior tight end Tommy Sweeney, who led the position group with 32 receptions and 348 yards.
Despite the early lack of opportunities, Long still got on the stat sheet and found a way to show off his upside. As a redshirt freshman, he made the most of his limited chances, picking up four receptions for 103 yards and two scores. Long flashed big-play potential, and when Sweeney graduated to the NFL in 2019, Long was next in line.
Long expanded on his success in 2019, amassing 509 yards and two scores on 28 receptions. He averaged almost 20 yards per catch and again showcased his ability to get open up the seam for big yardage. Even this wasn’t the peak for Long, however. The best was yet to come.
Hunter Long’s 2020 season catapulted him to the NFL Draft
The best came in 2020 when Long was matched with Notre Dame transfer Phil Jurkovec at quarterback.
Jurkovec provided the Eagles with an upgrade at the quarterback position, and he and Long quickly developed chemistry. In 11 games, Long caught 57 passes for 685 yards and five touchdowns. The Boston College standout led all tight ends in receptions and finished in the top five in receiving yards.
Long finished his career with 89 receptions, 1,297 yards, and nine touchdowns. In 2020, he became the first Boston College tight end to earn All-American honors since Pete Mitchell. And after the conclusion of the 2020 regular season, he decided that was enough. On December 17, Long officially announced his intentions to enter the 2021 NFL Draft.
His decision was met with support from Boston College head coach Jeff Hafley, who said the following about Long: “We could not be happier and more supportive of Hunter’s decision to enter the NFL Draft. Hunter has been a terrific ambassador on and off the field for our program and we can’t wait to watch him play on Sundays.”
Analyzing Hunter Long’s 2021 NFL Draft profile
Long will most definitely be playing on Sundays. The question is where, and to what degree? Long managed to build himself up from obscurity and compile a résumé worthy of NFL Draft consideration. But how do his traits stack up against the top tight ends, and what does his stock look like?
Long isn’t a unicorn athlete like Pitts. He’s also not an elite positional run-after-catch threat like Jordan. Of the top three tight ends, Long most closely resembles Freiermuth, but even then, his frame is a bit lighter, and Freiermuth is more athletic and more established.
There’s a decent gap between the top tight ends and Long, but Long sits at the top of the next tier, and he’s a solid Day 2, early Day 3 prospect who fits the big, tough tight end mold.
How Hunter Long stacks up with the top tight ends
If there were one word to describe Long, it would be “solid.” He’s just solid, all around. He’s not going to wow you as an athlete, but he has good speed and lateral agility for his size. He also holds his own vertically and can high-point passes with his natural timing.
Additionally, he brings solid blocking utility. Adding weight could help him improve there, but he’s fairly sound fundamentally and has good leverage.
Long uses his size well as a pass catcher, boxing out defenders and using his catch radius to latch onto high passes. He’s smooth at the catch point with soft hands and stellar body control, but he can also win with physicality. This helps him a great deal in contested catch situations, which he often encounters given his lack of elite athleticism.
After the catch, while he’s not particularly elusive, his toughness can grant him extra yards.
Again, Long doesn’t have a trump card that the other top tight ends boast, which might limit his upside. Yet, there are also few holes in his game. Long is a decent athlete with consistent catching ability, and he also has the awareness to enter blind spots and manipulate zones off his breaks.
He can add more weight and sharpen his routes, but that’s about it. He’s smart, tough, and dependable, and if he’s not a starter right away, he should be a serviceable No. 2 tight end who could move into a starting role later in his career.
Hunter Long’s best fits in the 2021 NFL Draft
How teams evaluate the tight end position after the first three players will be of great interest on draft night. There are plenty of tight ends in that middle-round range, but while some offer more upside than Long, Long arguably has the highest floor. He’s also the easiest to project to the NFL level.
Long’s overall solidity gives him some flexibility in terms of fit. Teams looking for matchup nightmares at tight end might look elsewhere. However, if a team wants a big target who can make contested catches, navigate the seam, and convert when needed, Long meshes with that description perfectly.
Long brings great value on Day 2, so teams with other needs, in addition to a void at tight end, might favor Long so that they can spend their earlier picks on other positions. Teams like the Chargers, Patriots, and Jaguars best match with that description. That said, teams in need of a reliable No. 2 in the NFL Draft might also be inclined to consider Hunter Long.
Long helped himself a lot this offseason. He was good all week at the Senior Bowl, and he also tested very well at his pro day, logging a 4.71 40-yard dash, a 32.5-inch vertical, and a 122-inch broad jump at 6-foot-5, 254 pounds. Long now has impressive quantifiable athleticism, to go along with his length, receiving ability, and — most importantly — his unbridled consistency.
General reliability can be in short supply sometimes. Luckily for Long, that’s one of his strengths.
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