The New Orleans Saints tight ends accounted for only 11% of the team's receptions and passing yardage in 2017, and just 4 of their 23 passing scores. Coby Fleener, Josh Hill, and Michael Hoomanawanui struggled in providing quarterback Drew Brees any reliability from the position, contributing to the Saints struggles on 3rd down. New Orleans did re-sign veteran tight end Ben Watson, who previously played for them from 2013-15, but the position is viewed as one of the weakest on the team. This year's draft crop looks talented, with at least four players expected to get drafted by the 3rd round, and potentially two being drafted in the first night. Today, we profile one of the top tight end prospects from the 2018 draft class.
Mike Gesicki, TE (Penn State)
Gesicki attended Southern Regional High School in New Jersey, where he was an all-state star in volleyball and basketball as well as football. An immediate contributor as a freshman at Penn State, he finished his 4-yr. career as the Nittany Lions all-time leader in receptions (129), yards (1,481), and touchdowns (15) for a tight end. He then skyrocketed further up the draft boards with his performance at the NFL Scouting Combine. Gesicki's 40 time (4.54), 20-yd. shuttle (4.10), 60-yd. shuttle (11.33), vertical jump (41.5 inches), and 3-cone drill (6.76) were all the top marks among tight ends. His 129 inch broad jump was the highest mark among all combine participants, matched only by Virginia Tech safety Terrell Edmunds.
Gesicki translates his explosive athleticism to the football field. He is a vertical threat that is an athletic mismatch against nearly every linebacker and most safeties that line up against him. Gesicki can get downfield quickly, and he has very good change of direction and the ability to disguise his routes. He is most dangerous on intermediate and deep patterns, but has the ability to run all routes. Gesicki makes excellent adjustments to the ball, and his outstanding leaping ability allows him to make plays above traffic. His height and long arms give him a large catch radius difficult to defend, and competes for every ball thrown his direction. He has naturally soft hands, rarely dropping the ball and shows great concentration in traffic.
NFL.com comparison: Jimmy Graham (Packers)
Gesicki's detractors will point out his poor blocking ability. He needs to improve his strength at the point of attack, and isn't able to set the edge consistently in the run as an in-line blocker. His lanky frame can cause him to struggle getting off the line of scrimmage against physical coverage, creating problems on shorter routes.
The Saints already have fine blocking tight ends in Hill, Hoomanawanui, and Watson. The re-signing of Watson, a good all-around tight end when in his prime, makes for the perfect mentor should New Orleans decide to draft a young player in this position. Gesicki was known as one of the hardest workers on the Nittany Lions football team, and would learn quickly on the pro level. Gesicki's occasional struggles in getting off the line could be negated by a diversified offense like New Orleans that would move him around the formation, and his catch and run abilities out of the flat would be a valuable asset. Mike Gesicki could bring the athleticism, downfield threat, and receiving production that Saints coach Sean Payton's 2017 offense was lacking from the tight end position.