Hunter Long – Boston College
A player like Hunter Long may not get the coverage that Kyle Pitts or Pat Freiermuth do, but his game is more than deserving. With his stats being comparable to the top two tight ends in the class, the Carolina Panthers should take a long look at a possible sleeper.
Long shows an impressive knack for catching a contested ball with one-armed catches and double coverage snags littering his tape. Including one where the defender had his off arm pinned against his body. A talent that has become more and more of a commodity in the NFL recently.
The prospect thrived on shallow crosses and off block releases during his Boston College career, always seeming to pop open across the middle. While he also showed a quick turn on the post that consistently got defenders on the back foot and created just enough separation.
Long’s remarkable route running also comes with a hard-nosed strength that allows him to break off the first contact and push through defenders to move the chains. Something the Panthers will need especially on third down with the departure of Curtis Samuel to the Washington Football Team.
Another piece of his game that should translate well at the next level is Long’s ability to catch the deep ball and get open for it. Tight ends are rapidly moving toward this sort of role and that ability will certainly turn some heads come draft night. An ability the Panthers took for granted with Greg Olsen and now sorely miss.
Hunter Long could be a complete TE for the Carolina Panthers.
A tragically underrated skill at any position is improvisation and that is something Long excels at. He shows great instincts to know when a play is breaking down and when he needs to forget the route and just get open. That being one of the reasons he often finds himself all alone deep.
Now for the other half of the job description, blocking.
While Freiermuth uses size and strength to make up for a lack of instinct and skill, Long is the exact opposite. He may not have the size to keep rushers locked down for extended periods but the Boston College standout seems to always know who to block.
Long shows the instincts to shed off a block and either help someone else or block a free runner when the need arises. He also shows the skills and footwork to keep people in front of him for a pass to get thrown or a runner to burst through, just long enough as his size becomes a liability as time goes on.
With some bulking up at the next level, Long could develop into a true hybrid receiver/blocker tight end. Having intangibles in both areas tends to be overlooked in this day and age.
Long would bring both a Day 1 replacement for the skill set of Chris Manhertz and has the potential to be a gifted pass catcher at the position for the Panthers. He may not start right away, but if he is drafted, look for him to immediately slot in as a No. 2 behind Dan Arnold and be a true three-down player. Brought in to block in extra protection schemes and also as a pass-catcher in short-yardage or the multiple tight end sets that Joe Brady loves so much.
Just don’t look for him to stay at No. 2 for very long because he just might be the guy the team has been looking for.