One of the pieces that the Los Angles Rams acquired during the Jalen Ramsey trade to the Miami Dolphins was former Boston College tight end, Hunter Long. Long was a third-round pick by the Dolphins in the 2021 NFL Draft. However, two years into his NFL career, he has one career reception for eight yards.
Is this really what the Rams traded for when they shipped off a franchise caliber player in Jalen Ramsey? Yes, the Dolphins had Mike Gesicki, but even Durham Smythe, a fourth-round pick in 2018 seemed to remain above Long on the Dolphins depth chart. Long is someone that the Rams scouted in 2021 and liked what he did at Boston College. The question is however, was Long a player that was just hidden on the Dolphins depth chart or is he just a flier that the Rams had included in the Ramsey trade?
Between now and the Rams’ first preseason game, I’m going to preview approximately 45 players on the roster. The goal here will be to highlight players looking to take that next step in 2023 as well as players who will serve as key depth on the roster. I may expand into the occasional star or roster-bubble player, but for the most part we’ll be looking at the players who will truly make or break the Rams season.
Today, we’re looking at Hunter Long.
2022 Season in Review
Long didn’t do a lot in 2022. In 21 snaps in which he ran a route on offense, Long was targeted just once. Pro Football Focus marked him down with 83 blocking snaps, but he didn’t perform well in that area either with just a 58.6 run-blocking grade. He also had 64 snaps on special teams.
This is a player that’s had his commitment to the game questioned by a coach. Prior to the Dolphins trading Long, there wasn’t a lot of optimism surrounding his development. Did he just need a change of scenery?
The Good/Best Case Scenario
The fact of the matter is, there isn’t a lot of “good” when it comes to Long. However, this is a player that the Rams coaching staff is somewhat familiar with. According to the Rams’ Stu Jackson, new tight ends coach, Nick Caley interviewed Long several times during the draft process.
Senior Bowl Player Preview— Brandon Lejeune (@DevyDeepDive) January 22, 2021
Boston College TE Hunter Long
Career Stats: 89/1,295/9
My #Devy Dashboard Rookie Ranks: TE4 / OVR51
Moves well for his size, good ball tracking and body control at catch point. Solid blocker. #SeniorBowl #NFLDraft pic.twitter.com/1PlIiUoc15
Players who are drafted in the third-round are talented. Whether it’s situation or coaching, things don’t always work out. Sometimes, all a player needs is a change of scenery. Long is a good athlete as he scored an 8.58 RAS.
In a best case scenario, under a new coaching staff and in a new situation, Long begins to see his potential and plays up to his athleticism and draft position. There will be opportunity behind Tyler Higbee in the Rams offense. It will be up to Long whether or not he sees a large role.
The Bad/Worst Case Scenario
In two years, you would expect more than one reception for eight yards from a third-round draft pick. While Gesicki is a very athletic tight end and had back-to-back 700 yard seasons with the Dolphins, Smythe isn’t exactly an all-pro tight end. Long should have been the second tight end behind Gesicki with the Dolphins and that wasn’t the case.
While the Rams are hoping the a change of scenery can help Long, there is the possibility that things continue as they have been. Brycen Hopkins has been more productive in his career and has more experience in the offense. Davis Allen was just selected in the fifth-round of the NFL Draft. If Long disappoints in training camp, he could very easily get cut.
Biggest Question: Was Hunter Long hidden on the Dolphins roster?
Long entered the 2021 NFL Draft as a receiving threat at tight end. Meanwhile, the Dolphins used Long in more of a blocking role. While this may seem contradictory to his abilities, the Rams have done much of the same with Hopkins. In the McVay-Shanahan system, tight ends have to be able to block and be relied on in pass protection.
There is certainly some potential here with Long. The hope is that he can reach that potential in a new environment. How likely is that to happen, though? While Gesicki was a solid tight end, there was opportunity behind him in Miami and Long failed to capitalize and was buried on the depth chart. With Hopkins having more experience in the offense, that could happen in Los Angeles as well.
The roster battle at tight end is going to be an interesting one to say the least. It’s very possible that the Rams keep four tight ends. However, if a player like Long gives them a reason not to, that number could drop down to three.
You have to assume that Tyler Higbee is a lock and it would be a surprise if Allen was cut as a fifth-round pick. Therefore, the tight end spot behind Higbee as well as the final tight end spot on the roster could come down to Hopkins and Long. It’s possible that the Rams keep all four, but nothing will be guaranteed.
2023 Outlook and What to Expect
It’s difficult to know exactly what to expect when it comes to Long. As a player with only one career reception for eight yards, this does feel like the Rams taking a flier on a player, hoping that a change of scenery helps.
With more experience in the offense, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Hopkins as the tight end behind Higbee. However, as a third tight end or blocking tight end in the red zone, that might be where Long’s role is in 2023. With Higbee and Hopkins both free agents following the season, Long’s time could come in 2024.
Chances of Making Final Roster
After acquiring Long in the Ramsey trade, it would be a relative surprise for him to get cut and not make it through training camp. Long would need to be especially poor for that to happen. While he may not be a lock, the former Dolphins tight end should be a favorite to land on the final-53.
Final Roster Confidence: 8.4/10