Welcome back to the Dolphins Draft Film Room series. I’ve decided to skip around just a tad and cover tight end Hunter Long, who was selected with the 81st overall pick, before diving into Notre Dame offensive tackle Liam Eichenberg, who was selected before Long. 

When Long was selected in the third round, the collective feeling of Dolphins fans was bewilderment. “Another tight end?” was something I saw on my Twitter timeline quite a bit. Miami already has Mike Gesicki, who is probably a top-seven tight end in the NFL, and they got solid production from Durham Smythe and Adam Shaheen last season. 

Well, that’s the question I’ll aim to answer. So why did Miami draft a tight end with a premium pick, and what specifically does Hunter Long do well? 


The Dolphins’ focus of the offseason was getting more dynamic weapons for budding quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. They added Jaylen Waddle and Will Fuller, which ultimately addressed the team’s need for speed. However, Miami also lacked good run after catch ability last season. When their receivers made catches, they were unable to create extra yards. 

Boston College ran this block and release play with Hunter Long quite a bit last season. At first glance, Long doesn’t look like a good YAC player. He’s tall, burly, and a little stiff. However, Long was consistently able to make things happen in the open field on plays like this, and tight end screen plays. 

When Long can build up a head of steam, he can eat up ground pretty quickly, and his bigger frame is difficult to bring down for some defensive backs. I’m not sure he will be this successful in the NFL given his overall modest athletic profile, but he’s certainly an upgrade over Smythe and Shaheen in this area. 


Sticking with Long’s receiving prowess for a second. One of the most interesting things about him is how much experience he has lined up in different spots. He saw reps as an H-back, inline, in the slot, and outside as an X receiver. He’s incredibly versatile as a receiver. 

This play features Long lining up as the H-back and running an angle route in the middle of the field. Again, there isn’t anything overly special about this player other than being a good demonstration of Long’s ability to win as a receiver from multiple spots. 

I’ll get into this more later, but I felt Miami was missing a middle-of-the-field target last season. They liked to push the ball horizontally a lot, but Long gives them a really sturdy option for the simple middle-of-the-field route concepts like curls, spots, and angles. In addition, Tua excels in the quick game, so adding another option like Long is welcomed. 


This is one of my favorite plays from Long’s film. Again, we see versatility from Long as he lined up as a slot receiver on this play. He’s running a simple glance route with a linebacker in man coverage and a safety over the top. 

Something important to note here is Long isn’t exactly fast or explosive when running this route. He’s not an elite athlete, nor is he a player who will separate with quickness. Instead, like a lot of tight ends, he will rely on his body to separate. This can be a death sentence for receiver prospects but is, typically, less of an issue for tight ends. 

Long makes a really nice catch going to the ground on this play. The throw needed to be that low to protect him from the safety over the top, which is something tight ends need to deal with quite a bit, and Long has consistently displayed the toughness and skill to do so in the NFL. 


Long is capable of making some truly ludicrous body adjustment catches. I’ll include one at the end of this article if you need proof. I include the play above because, sometimes, Long’s ball skills can be a tad questionable, and it’s something he needs to improve. 

Long has a weird habit of letting passes get into his chest instead of reaching out to snag them in front of his face or high pointing them. Long cost the Eagles a touchdown on this play because when he didn’t reach out in front of his frame to make the catch, he invited the defensive back to the catch point allowing him to make a play on the ball. 

This was not a one-off on Long’s film. For every insane catch he makes, there is also a play where he fails to successfully attack the ball and instead lets it get into his chest. This is a pretty simple fix, and I’m definitely nit-picky, but it’s something to keep an eye on. 


Long’s versatility isn’t just applied to pass-catching ability. He’s got experience blocking in the running game from several different spots. He’s typically used as an H-back and is asked to pull across the line to block a defensive end or pull out into space and be a lead blocker at the second level. 

Long is off-the-line scrimmage on this play and does a good job despite initially getting beat. The linebacker coming downhill gets into the gap, but Long did a good job getting his hands on him and sealing him inside, allowing his running back to have a clear path to the outside. 

Long is a positional blocker. He’s not going to fire off the line and drive defenders downfield like George Kittle. Instead, he’s going to use his size and length to more or less guide them in the right direction. Generally speaking, tight ends do not have to be elite blockers to be successful. They need to hold on long enough, and I think Long is well ahead of most college tight ends in that category. 


I am wholeheartedly against forcing tight ends to block defensive ends in pass protection. It’s a recipe for disaster, given the current level of blocking acceptable for NFL tight ends. However, with that said, I would be remiss if I didn’t at least acknowledge Long’s experience as a pass blocker. 

Most college tight ends don’t see reps like this anymore, but Long saw a fair amount of them every game and still led the Eagles to receive this past season. 

Long very much embraced the nuanced strategy of holding on for dear life when in pass protection. This rep shows him attaching to Pitt EDGE rusher Rashad Weaver and just riding him out until help arrives. I don’t think Long should be asked to 1v1 block anyone, but he can be an asset as a pass blocker, adding even more to his versatile profile. 


Here’s that monster one-handed catch I mentioned earlier. There’s not much to break down with this play other than prove Long can make some truly absurd contested catches, similar to Mike Gesicki. 



So, why did the Dolphins draft a tight end with the 81st pick? Many people have pointed to Mike Gesciki’s pending contract extension, which could certainly be part of the equation. However, when looking at Long’s on the field play and considering Brian Flores and Chris Grier’s team-building philosophy, one thing stands out—versatility. 

Long’s versatility isn’t in the traditional sense of playing multiple positions. Still, his experience lining up all over the field while having success as both a blocker and receiver is undoubtedly a standout skill in the eyes of Miami’s brass. Unfortunately, the Dolphins’ current group of tight ends do not offer the same formational flexibility. Smythe is, essentially, a glorified fullback, Shaheen is a red-zone specialist, and Gesicki is a receiver. 

None of them have the same receiving and blocking balance Long possesses. If Long becomes a featured part of Miami’s offense, he will allow them to hide their play-calling intentions much better than any of their current players. 

When you break it down like that, the Long pick actually sounds like something Miami would do. They value versatility and character over everything, which Long has in spades. 

Now, the natural follow-up question becomes, is Long’s versatility worth the 81st pick? It could be, but it’s tough to answer that question. Long making the defense potentially question whether Miami is running or throwing the ball is tough to quantify. 

The other issue is, historically speaking, tight ends take a couple of years to flourish truly. So while Adam Gase deserves a ton of blame for Gesicki’s slow start in the NFL, Gesicki has made significant improvements to his game over the years as well, allowing him to breakout. 

My advice is to be patient with this pick. Long might not see the field a ton in year one, and when he does, it might not be flashy. However, tight ends require patience, and he does everything Miami could ask for.