Overvalued NFL Draft Targets: Tight End (2021 NFL Draft)
The 2021 NFL Draft class is highlighted by a truly elite prospect at the tight end position in Florida’s Kyle Pitts. A few others look to be potential starters in Brevin Jordan and Pat Freiermuth, and perhaps even the player we will discuss today. However, the top three in Pitts, Jordan, and Freiermuth look to be potential Pro Bowlers who are expected to start for the next decade.
To qualify for this list, a prospect must be discussed as a potential top three tight end and as an early Day 2 pick at worst. The tight end position lacks depth, so even expanding to the top five would allow for too much subjectivity and a discussion that included Day 3 prospects that may not be drafted at all. Focusing on players who are discussed as potential top names at the position will give us a better indication of which prospects may be overvalued versus their counterparts.
Tape watched: North Carolina, Duke, Notre Dame, Clemson
Hunter Long had an excellent redshirt junior season in which a change at quarterback to Phil Jurkovec helped propel him to an FBS position leading 89 targets and 57 receptions. Long operated as a focal point of the passing attack and finished the season with 57 receptions, 685 receiving yards, and five touchdowns. Long showed enough upside to guarantee being selected in the 2021 NFL Draft. However, the question is, does he belong in the top three conversation.
6’5, 254 lbs tight end prospect Hunter Long is an exciting pro-ready talent with starter upside. He proved to be an effective downfield and red zone weapon at Boston College and has shown enough as a blocker to entice teams to make him a Day 2 selection. He could make an impact as a rookie on the right depth chart and could be an immediate starter for teams with major holes at the position like the New York Jets or Carolina Panthers.
Senior Bowl Player Preview
Boston College TE Hunter Long
Career Stats: 89/1,295/9
My #Devy Dashboard Rookie Ranks: TE4 / OVR51
— Brandon Lejeune (@DevyDeepDive) January 22, 2021
Long has some impressive college tape, but there are athleticism questions that he will need to answer on his March 26th Pro Day. His ability in the short and intermediate game should translate seamlessly, but whether or not he will be able to separate downfield consistently (his best attribute) will determine his long-term upside. He is good enough to be a number two move tight end, perhaps on a team that makes heavy use of 12 personnel. However, if he is to be an upside starter, the ability to separate against safeties and linebackers will be critical.
Long will need to answer questions not only about his athleticism but about his pass protection trajectory, the consistency of his hands, and replaceability of talent. While Long has some good snaps in pass protection, he struggled enough to become a liability on a team that keeps their tight end in-line more frequently than in the slot. He dropped many easy targets in 2020, something that will undoubtedly concern teams that dug into his tape. Finally, while he has a serviceable backup floor, his upside is quite limited. He will always be a bottom 25 percent starter based on talent if he ever lands a gig and will need the right scheme and depth chart to help him approach his potential.
Long would be a Day 3 pick in drafts with more talent at the position but may find a way to sneak into Day 2 thanks to positional scarcity combined with his strong season. He has no business being discussed with the top three talents at the position, but for teams looking for someone who has Day 2 upside and can provide meaningful snaps immediately, Long may be the best bet outside of the big three. There will be a few tight ends drafted later than him with more upside, but Long has the safer floor.
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