In what seems like a big move, the Los Angeles Rams traded Jalen Ramsey to the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. Through the trade the Rams will receive a draft pick and also acquire tight end Hunter Long.
He’s not a name that most NFL fans will be familiar with, is there a chance that he could become the heir apparent to Tyler Higbee?
A third round pick out of Boston College in 2021, Long does come with some recruiting and draft pedigree, he just hasn’t been a productive player in the NFL over the two years since. He does have the potential. The Dolphins website lists Long at 6’5” and 253 lbs. ESPN lists Tyler Higbee at 6’5” and 255 lbs. Both players are comparable in size, however Long is six years younger than Higbee and quite a lot cheaper.
Pass-catching tight end with decent speed and plus ball skills but a concerning lack of consistent aggression in his play. Long is much too passive and unskilled as a run blocker at this point of his development to consistently help against NFL competition. He also needs to get better at controlling his catch space with body control and physicality. However, when the ball is in the air, he plays with a plus level of tracking and focus to make tougher catches look easy, including throws that are down near his feet. He doesn’t look like a burner, but he does have success running the seam and working over routes, so play speed should not be an issue. He’s unlikely to ever be much of a blocker, so he must learn to become more competitive and feisty in fighting for his space and the football.
Did the Rams get him as a depth piece, or with a genuine plan to get him involved in blocking or passing? Maybe both.
NFLDraftBuzz projected Long to have a high floor, but a low ceiling. So far, it just seems like we’ve seen a low floor. Long has played in 16 of a possible 34 games, catching one pass for eight yards in the Dolphins offense. However, Long was drafted when the Dolphins had Brian Flores as a head coach and he’s clearly not the tight end who new coach Mike McDaniel would have picked for Tua Tagovailoa.
Long missed time with an ankle injury last season, but also didn’t have a role on the offense behind Mike Gesicki and Durham Smythe. Much worse than that, tight ends coach Jon Embree openly questioned Long’s commitment to football:
“Well, it’s been quite a journey with Hunter Long,” Embree said. “We’ve had some interesting times. The thing I’ve learned about him, one, is football is important to him. So that’s good to know with him, because there were times I wondered about that. So football is important to him…”
Embree went onto say that though he questioned it in the past, that he proved his commitment and “handled it very well” when the team transitioned to a new coaching staff.
There were also rumors of Miami wanting to trade fellow tight end Mike Geisicki during the season and we’ll see if that happens. For now they part with Long, now on his way to play for Sean McVay, himself a former tight ends coach. And one who hasn’t had luck with any tight end that the Rams have drafted or signed since his arrival in 2017.
Perhaps what he needed to do was trade for one.