The Miami Dolphins used their third-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft to select Boston College tight end Hunter Long. Adding a pass-catching tight end was not necessarily a top need for the Dolphins, but it was a move that makes sense as the team looks to create mismatches and exploit defenses. With Long joining Mike Gesicki at tight end, along with receivers DeVante Parker, Will Fuller, and rookie Jaylen Waddle, the Dolphins can keep defenses guessing.
Our The Phinsider round table is back to take a look at Long and his fit with the Dolphins. Our discussion includes Justin Hier, Josh Houtz, James McKinney, Kevin Nogle, and Craig T. Smith.
Houtz: “With the 81st pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Dolphins selected Boston College tight end Hunter Long, who has been compared to Jason Witten by several ‘experts and analysts.’ No matter how you cut it, Hunter Long brings another dimension, and he’s going to let the Dolphins run the 12-personnel they desire. It also gives them added insurance when both Durham Smythe and Mike Gesicki ask for more cash. Mike Gesicki + Hunter Long = Bash Em Brother.”
McKinney: “Long fills a need on the Dolphins for a true inline tight end. While some draft projections for Long saw him as a guy that was not going to go out and catch a lot of balls for you he was the best receiving option for Boston College over the last two seasons making fools of defenders with his subtle route running ability and being a high point pass catcher. Others saw him as one of the best well-rounded players at his position in this year’s draft.”
Nogle: “I am not going to try to pretend I watched a lot of Boston College football this year. I like the pick of Long and understand what the Dolphins are thinking with it. If they can upgrade a pass catcher at the position - no offense to Durham Smythe or Adam Shaheen - to give them that two-headed monster at tight end that Brian Flores seems to want, then you do it. Long makes sense, but he just was not what I thought or expected with the 81st pick.”
Hier: “Yes, I wanted Wisconsin-Whitewater hero Quinn Meinerz or one of the top running backs left on the board. No, I’m not at all upset about landing Hunter Long. Long is one of the more complete tight ends from this draft class (he’s probably already a better blocker than Mike Gesicki) and showed out as a pass catcher during his final collegiate season (57 rec, 685 yds, 5 TDs in 11 games).”
Smith: “Eh, I would’ve preferred a few other players in this spot. I get the possibility of being able to run more two tight end sets, and Long does give them some flexibility in this regard as far as being able to run and go with play action. I just think there were more impactful players on the board at that point, with the option of grabbing another tight end later. Center Quinn Meinerz. Cornerback Elijah Molden. Maybe I’m not giving this pick enough credit, but I feel like getting an impact versatile defender or road grading lineman might have been a better use of this pick. But I’m a blogger and they’re world-class execs, so I’ll trust they know what they’re doing”
Houtz: “The last pick of day two was a position that fans had hoped and prayed the team would have a chance to address at six. Instead, Brian Flores and the Dolphins never had a chance at Kyle Pitts, but they did clearly have an interest in adding to the position.”
Nogle: “I never thought tight end was a position Miami would target this year. Pitts was an outlier because of the talent. Despite needing to add weapons for Tua Tagovailoa and the offense, I thought that was wide receiver and running back exclusive. Clearly they saw a tight end the like and they made the move. I think the key here, though, is this is a pick for the long term, not necessarily for 2021.”
Hier: “It’s unlikely he sees significant snaps out of the gate given the substantial rookie learning curve at tight end compared to other positions and Miami’s current depth on the roster (Gesicki, Durham Smythe, & Adam Shaheen are likely to be around Week 1), but Long presents a long-term play at the position. Gesicki and Smythe are both set to be free agents in 2022, and if Gesicki builds on his strong play from last year, he’ll command top dollar on the free agent market. The idea of pairing Gesicki and Long in two-tight end sets is also very attractive, especially in red zone situations. Expect Long to be a regular contributor on offense in due time.”
McKinney: “He’s seen as a guy that does many things very well but may not be the kind of athlete that becomes a huge difference for some offenses around the NFL but in an offense that at times had problems opening holes in the running game Long might in fact be a difference-maker for this team and the running game specifically as he’s considered a solid run blocker.”
Nogle: “It is going to be fun to watch how Miami uses Long. Having multiple big-bodied threats in the red zone along could make adding Long to Gesicki, Smythe, and Shaheen worth the pick.”