2021 NFL draft prospects: Boston College TE Hunter Long

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Eric Edholm's criteria for grading NFL draft prospects. (Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports)
Eric Edholm's criteria for grading NFL draft prospects. (Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports)

Boston College TE Hunter Long

6-foot-5, 254 pounds

Yahoo Sports draft grade: 5.78 — potential starter

TL;DR scouting report: Solid, ascending receiving talent with NFL size and great contested-catch ability, although Long’s blocking is a work in progress

Games watched: Duke (2020), Notre Dame (2020), North Carolina (2020), Clemson (2020)

The skinny: A 2-star Rivals recruit who redshirted as a freshman in 2017. The next season, he caught four passes for 103 yards and two scores in 12 games. Long took another step forward in 2019, catching 28 passes for 509 yards and two touchdowns on the way toward earning third-team all-ACC honors. And in his redshirt junior season in 2020, he snagged a team-high 57 passes for 685 yards and five scores in 11 games, good for second-team all-conference team. Long forwent his senior season to declare for the 2021 draft and played in the 2021 Senior Bowl.

Upside: Textbook NFL size for the position, elite wingspan (83 inches) and good arm length (33 3/4 inches).

Outstanding in traffic — contested-pass stud who uses his body to shield off defenders, times up his jumps well and competes for jump balls. Wide radius to haul in poor throws. Bailed out his quarterback more than once adjusting to off-target throws. Plucks some impressive low balls before they hit the ground.

Fluid athlete who moves well and can get down the seam in a hurry. Will be a tough cover for some linebackers. Coordinated feet and improved route running. Career 14.8-yard receiving average and hauled in grabs of 51 and 72 yards in 2019. Runs well for a man that size. Can turn short and intermediate catches into long gains.

CHESTNUT HILL, MA - SEPTEMBER 08: Boston College tight end Hunter Long (80) scores a touchdown as Holy Cross defensive back Chris Riley (7) tries to stop him during a game between the Boston College Eagles and the Holy Cross Crusaders on September 8, 2018, at Alumni Stadium in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. The Eagles defeated the Crusaders 62-14. (Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Boston College tight end Hunter Long is terrific at the catch point. (Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Key element of BC passing game in 2020 — six games with eight or more targets (including two 12-target games and a 17-target game). First-down machine who moved the chains on 62 percent of his catches. Trusted, reliable receiver who has the requisite ball skills to make it as a TE1 in some systems. Works back to the ball and operated well with some run-around BC quarterbacks who looked to extend plays.

Showed some moderate improvement as a run blocker last season. Keeps his feet churning in the ground game and was better at sustaining blocks longer. Has the potential to grow as a blocker, especially in pass protection.

Can man all the TE spots (in-line and slot, as well as out wide) and saw a few snaps in the backfield last season as a blocker. Quality special teams performer his first two seasons — saw time on three of four major units (everything but kick coverage) as well as on FG/extra point team. Ascending talent who should be a better pro than he was a college player.

Downside: Didn't dominate as a blocker. Allows defenders to get their hands inside and doesn’t flash many dominant reps. Pass-blocking effectiveness dipped in 2020 with more opportunities. Lacks any semblance of a mean streak for the dirty work.

Didn’t gain as many yards after contact in 2020 — used more as a post-up target in the passing game. Route running still needs work as Long will round off some routes and lacks sharp-cut ability.

Had some frustrating drops — still lets some short, catchable passes slip through his grasp. Hand size (9 3/4 inches) is below average for the position.

Played progressively less as an in-line tight end as his career evolved. Didn’t become key contributor until two years ago and still needs refinement in his game. Rookie season could result in incomplete performance.

Not a burner. Likely will test slightly above average athletically and lacks a top gear. Not very shifty in space. Play strength registers as average-to-below-average. Will be a 23-year-old rookie.

Best-suited destination: Long profiles as a TE2 early in his career who could ascend to TE1 by his second or third NFL season. His blocking needs work, and he likely will be a part-time weapon in the passing game until he develops.

Did you know: The NFL has had only 51 players who attended high school in New Hampshire, and Long could be the 52nd. The only active NFL player from New Hampshire is also a tight end: the Jets’ Ryan Griffin.

Player comp: Long is sort of on the Dallas Goedert-Austin Hooper spectrum.

Expected draft range: Rounds 2 or 3