While the Miami Dolphins have already made plenty of moves this offseason, one of the few things that has yet to be addressed is the tight end position. After releasing veteran Julius Thomas, who was a major disappointment after trading for him from the Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami now only has MarQueis Gray, A.J. Derby, and Thomas Duarte on the roster.
That isn't going to cut it.
So, the best option for the Dolphins at this time - barring any unexpected changes of heart towards free agent Eric Ebron - is to draft a new one in this upcoming draft; there are plenty of options to choose from this year, not the least of which is Penn State's Mike Gesicki.
Gesicki weighs in at 6-foot-5, 247 pounds, and has a background in both basketball and volleyball, which many of the league's top pass-catching tight ends seem to stem from. He was a four-time letter winner in volleyball in high school, as well as his school's all-time leader in points in basketball, and state slam dunk contest winner.
In short, he is a phenomenal athlete.
But make no mistake, Gesicki has some drawbacks, including one fatal flaw that - if he ever managed to somehow fix - he could become one of the greatest tight ends in the league in no time...that flaw, is his blocking.
Here against Michigan, which was ranked the third best defense in the country last season, Gesicki is tasked with blocking the blitzing DB. His goal is to help make a running lane for the running back on the direct snap, but all he manages to do is hold his ground somewhat; if he'd managed to get some push, the rusher would have had more room to go left rather than cut back inside into a wall of players.
On this play, Gesicki comes over from his H-Back spot to make a block on the defensive lineman, allowing for the Penn State QB to run his read option and run into the endzone. However, what must be noted is that all Gesicki really needed to do was briefly bump shoulder pads and get in the defender's way, and that's all he did. It unfortunately gets worse the more Gesicki is called upon to block.
It's a run play for Saquon Barkley - considered the draft's top prospect by many - and Gesicki needs to make a block on the linebacker in order to allow Barkley to get to the second level.
Granted, Barkley never got past the line of scrimmage due to the DB immediately reading the play and pursuing him, but notice how easily Gesicki gets brushed aside by the linebacker, he never properly sets his feet or gets leverage, and the linebacker literally just pushes Gesicki's hands away and joins the chase for Barkley.
Once again, Gesicki is lined up as an H-Back, he runs up and puts a block on the DB which manages to push the defender a few steps back, but the moment the running QB starts heading their way, the DB sweeps Gesicki's hands away and throws him off balance, forcing the QB to have to make a move to escape the would-be tackler; thankfully, the QB is able to score so Gesicki's mistake doesn't cost his team anything.
Now is when it starts to get embarrassing. Lined up once more as the H-Back, Gesicki comes across to try and put a cut block on the defensive lineman so that Barkley has the option of cutting right. Instead of being aggressive, however, Gesicki seems to just lay down and almost curls in on himself to make himself smaller, and the D-lineman just waits a second to step over him.
Had there not been penetration on the left side, Gesicki's block may have managed to keep Barkley from getting caught from behind or even allowed him to have just enough time to counter right, but the way Gesicki seems to just apathetically lay down indicates that he does not particular enjoy acting as a blocker.
No technique or strength whatsoever to speak of. Gesicki - once again lined up as an H-Back - is tasked with blocking the RDE on this play, he plants his feet into the ground and barely puts forth an effort to get his hands on the defender. Quick throw saves potential disaster, but again this displays Gesicki's poor technique, strength, and overall willingness as a blocker.
Here's one of those very rare moments where Gesicki successfully executes a block. He picks up the linebacker and makes a small hole for the QB to run through on the read option, by the time the LB makes a spin move to break free of the block, the QB has already passed.
Thankfully, what Gesicki lacks in blocking skills, he makes up for in his ability as a weapon. Here, lined up once more as an H-Back, he quickly accelerates off the snap and fluidly runs his route, turning to make the catch. Unfortunately, the pass falls incomplete as the ball is batted at the line of scrimmage.
This is where Gesicki could be of the most use to the Dolphins, acting as a seam threat and mismatch maker in the offense. Gesicki runs up from his H-Back position, makes a quick cut towards the middle of the field and reaches down to make the low catch for a first down, running right past the slot corner who appears focused on the potential read option run.
Also minor note, credit to Saquon Barkley for making that throw to Gesicki.
As previously stated, Gesicki spends most of his time slotted as an H-Back, here he comes across and ends up getting a reception on the screen. He chips off the defender and makes himself available to bail out his QB who's getting rushed by three defenders, something that Ryan Tannehill definitely could have used over the course of his career.
Gesicki lines up as more of a slot receiver this time, and he cuts inside and gets underneath the coverage. Pass falls incomplete however as the QB is hit as he throws.
Gesicki again shows how dangerous he can be in the seam, he runs a slant into the middle of the field and would have been able to make a catch for a first down, but the throw from the QB is too high and too far in front for him to reel it in.
Gesicki also has excellent hands and has the ability to make great leaping catches in the air. For the sake of full disclosure, we must explain that in the NCAA, only one foot has to land in-bounds to be considered a catch as opposed to the NFL's rules where both feet have to land inside.
That said, Gesicki shows an excellent ability to track the ball in the air and shows no fear going up to get it despite having a defender right there with him. He stacks the defender with quickness and excellent route-running, forcing the defender to trail him; the QB unfortunately makes a rotten throw, but Gesicki demonstrates incredible body control, turning back around to nab it in the air.
The ability to high point the ball - especially at Gesicki's 6-foot-5, would give the Dolphins some much needed size in an offense that currently consists of mostly shorter receivers, sans DeVante Parker.
Another tough catch by Gesicki (though again only complete due to NCAA rules), what should be noted here is how Gesicki makes the catch with his hands even as he's falling backwards, rather than trying to body catch it. His acceleration off the line and his break towards the sidelines are also silky smooth, making Gesicki a very tempting offense weapon.
High pointing the football in the NFL is one of the most coveted traits that a player can show, here Gesicki bails his QB out of trouble as he leaps up and catches the heaved pass, coming down with it for a big play.
This again exemplifies Gesicki's determination and dedication to making the big play, and it shows off his hands and body control when acting as a receiver.
Gesicki has incredible athleticism for a tight end, no doubt a result of his volleyball and basketball background. Here Gesicki catches the quick screen after side-stepping an incoming defender; he turns the corner, hurdles a defender going low and still manages to gain an extra couple yards after he comes down, never losing sight of the marker.
Here Gesicki again shows off his ability to go vertical at any given moment, from the H-Back slot he runs into the flat to catch the low pass, then he quickly turns up field and leaps over the defender to get some extra yards.
While this is an excellent demonstration of his athletic ability, it is somewhat disconcerting to see, because in the NFL, players seldom get away with making leaps like that without sustaining some sort of injury. Nevertheless, it is fun to watch and good to know he has that athleticism if it's needed.
As one of the Miami Herald's beat writers is so fond of saying: "Who catches TDs in the red zone?"
Here is Mike Gesicki doing just that, he briefly engages the defender only to quickly get off the block and run his route towards the endzone, the play action lures in the DB and gives Gesicki an easy run for a touchdown, something that the Dolphins have not gotten out of their tight ends in years.
In closing, the best way to describe Mike Gesicki is that he's essentially a really tall wide receiver. He doesn't like blocking, and he isn't very good at blocking. So one bit of advice to any NFL teams (particularly Miami) who might be interested in drafting him...don't ask him to block unless you like losing yards.
But if you're looking for a weapon in the seam, someone to create mismatches against linebackers and unsuspecting slot corners or make tough catches near the sidelines, Gesicki is your guy. Head coaches - like Adam Gase - who value good tight end play in their offense, should keep a very close eye on this dynamic pass catcher from Penn State.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
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