The Miami Dolphins seem to have wasted a draft pick on Hunter Long but it is still too early to give up on the tight end. It is getting close though.
Hunter Long has a lot of upside but you do have to wonder why the Dolphins made this draft pick to begin with and you also have to at least be glad they kept Mike Gesicki around. Had they not, they might be in a lot of trouble.
In two seasons, Long has spent more time on the sideline than in a game. He has 12 games played in his two seasons and only two starts. What’s worse is that he has been targeted only three times and has one reception in two seasons. Hunter Long has bust written all over him but will he really be?
Tight end is considered one of, if not the hardest position to learn on an NFL field. From blocking assignments to defensive reads, route running, and more, rarely do tight ends make an impact in their first year or two.
What puts long in the crosshairs is his inability to stay healthy and his draft position. Taken in round three, Long was considered by most to be the safety net should Miami lose Mike Gesicki. Gesicki wasn’t extended ahead of the 2021 season start and he was tagged prior to free agency in 2022. That gives the Dolphins time to work with him but he has to get healthy to be an option.
Currently, Long won’t play again this week. He is listed as out with a concussion. Not that it really matters, in 2022, Long has only taken 19% of the offensive snaps, 60 total. That’s down from 90 last season when he played in seven games total. This year he has only five games.
Long is being groomed but how much can he be developed if he can’t get on the field and stay on the field?
I wouldn’t characterize Long as a bust just yet but he is getting there quickly. The Dolphins can’t rely on him right now, at all, and because of that, they need to have a plan in place for next season when Mike Gesicki will almost certainly be gone but probably shouldn’t be. It’s pretty
Tanner Conner has as much chance at this point to work out. He has 3 targets in his first year but no receptions.
The fact that the Dolphins don’t use a tight end as much in the passing game shouldn’t be surprising and Durham Smythe and Mike Gesicki are the top two pass-catching TEs on the roster but if we are being honest, we should have expected a lot more from Hunter Long and maybe we did and that is why it is so disappointing.
What we need to remember though is that Hunter Long was not a draft selection under Mike McDaniel. Long was taken under the Chris Grier/Brian Flores final year so Miami was looking more for a replacement for Gesicki in that offensive system.
Taking a TE in the third round of a draft implies that he is an eventual successor but in this case, the optics just look like another bad and unnecessary draft pick.