After a stellar 2020 season and a successful career for the Boston College tight end, Hunter Long declared early for the 2021 NFL Draft. Long spent four years on the Heights, so he already earned his degree and wanted to capitalize on his best college season.
Going into the 2020 season, Long was projected to be a possible late-to-middle-round sleeper. But after leading all tight ends in college football in targets, he has elevated his stock significantly, firmly sitting within the top-five of most draft pundits’ tight end rankings. At 6’5” and 254 pounds, Long’s size should make him an asset to most NFL offenses. These are the five NFL teams that I think need Hunter Long the most and that he would be most successful with.
First on our list is the Carolina Panthers, who are in desperate need of help at the tight end position. Since Greg Olsen left, Carolina has been desperately searching for his replacement. The Panthers have plenty of weapons in their offense coordinated by boy-genius Joe Brady, including Christian McCaffrey, DJ Moore, and Robby Anderson. Carolina also recently acquired former New York Jets starting quarterback Sam Darnold; Darnold loves throwing to tight ends, and providing him with a big reliable target like Long over the middle could help resurrect Darnold’s career.
As in Carolina, Long would have a great opportunity to earn playing time immediately with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Jacksonville has a few journeyman veterans. But Urban Meyer traditionally likes versatile tight ends that can contribute in all phases of the game. While most think Trevor Lawrence, the Jaguars’ presumed next starting quarterback, dislikes throwing to his tight ends, the Clemson product frequently targeted the athletic Braden Galloway after he returned from suspension. A big target that can attack the seams like Long would help Lawrence acclimate to the league quickly. If the Jaguars miss out on Pat Freiermuth with their first few picks, snagging Long in the third round could be in the cards.
Los Angeles Chargers
Unlike the other teams listed, Hunter Long would not be an immediate starter or earn significant playing time immediately with the Los Angeles Chargers. The Chargers recently signed veteran Jared Cook to be their starting tight end after Hunter Henry left to join the New England Patriots. While Cook would be the presumed immediate starter, the Chargers could work Long into their 12 (one running back, two tight ends) personnel packages. Learning from Cook, while growing alongside the young star quarterback Justin Herbert, would be excellent for Long’s career. He would join a dynamic set of offensive weapons; along with Cook, the Chargers feature Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, and Austin Ekeler to surround Herbert with an excellent supporting cast. Additionally, Long is already training in California, so he would not have to move far.
Of all these teams, Long’s fit with the Tennessee Titans might be my favorite. It would certainly hearken back to his early years at BC, as he would be blocking for a big powerful running back. With the departure of Jonnu Smith to the New England Patriots, the Titans have quite the dearth at the tight end position, relying on journeymen Anthony Firkser and Geoff Swaim. Long would provide an excellent blocking presence on the end of the line of scrimmage to clear the way for Derrick Henry. But Long also fits well into the Titan’s passing offense, which would send him on a lot of intermediate crossing routes. One of his best qualities is his ability to find holes in the intermediate area of the field and pick up yards after the catch. For all these reasons, Long would be an excellent fit in Nashville.
Washington Football Team
Last on our list is the Washington Football Team. Currently, Washington has only two tight ends on their active roster, and only one has NFL playing experience (converted quarterback Logan Thomas). Therefore, Hunter Long could earn playing time immediately. He would most likely be working with veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. But the rest of the Football Team’s offense is coming together nicely, pairing former Ohio State teammates Terry McLaurin and Curtis Samuel together again, along with running back Antonio Gibson. Long could form a lethal duo with Logan Thomas, who put together a very solid year in 2020. Finally, Ron Rivera and the rest of Washington’s offensive staff have lots of experience working with a tight end similar to Long in Carolina, Greg Olsen.