On December 30th, Mike Gesicki and the Penn State Nittany Lions will take on the Washington Huskies in the Playstation Fiesta Bowl. It will be the his final career game for one of the best tight ends in Penn State history.
As a Recruit
Gesicki was one of the first prized recruits Penn State landed after their sanctions. He was a four-star, and the number one tight end in the country. He chose Penn State over Ohio State, Florida State, Miami, and Wisconsin.
However, football wasn’t his original passion, as he also played volleyball and basketball in high school. In basketball, he is his high school’s all-time leading scorer and was named the MVP of New Jersey’s All Star games. Here he is displaying his leaping ability on the basketball court:
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And in volleyball, Gesicki was named the New Jersey State Player of the Year during his senior year. In fact, the first Penn State coach he heard from wasn’t Bill O’Brien or James Franklin, but the head volleyball coach. Penn State men’s volleyball is one of the top programs in the country, so it’s pretty impressive for Gesicki.
The best part of Gesicki’s profile is his athletic ability. I briefly touched on his leaping ability before, but it really stands out when you look at his numbers (all from the winter of 2016):
- 4.54 forty yard dash (hand timed)
- 4.07 shuttle (hand timed)
- 38.5 inch vertical jump
- 10’10” broad jump
- 410 pound bench press
- 380 pound power clean
He also is listed at 6’6”, 255 pounds. It’s unnatural for a person of his size to be able to jump and run the way that Gesicki can. I’m a little skeptical of the two hand-timed events though. A 4.07 shuttle would be the fifth fastest time by a tight end since 2005.
His forty time also seems inflated, as Gesicki has a very long stride and he has gotten caught from behind multiple times in his career. I’d expect somewhere in the high 4.6s for Gesicki, which is below the NFL Draft Scout projection of 4.76. Assuming that he runs below a 4.7, Gesicki would fall into the most successful node of tight ends in Kevin Cole’s regression model for tight end success.
50% of tight ends that have ran a 4.7 or less, had a bench press of 20 or more (if he can bench 410 I’m assuming he can do this), and had a vertical of 34 inches or more have had a top 12 PPR seasons within their first three years.
Until last season, Gesicki wasn’t very productive. In 2016, he had a dominator rating of .18 and averaged 14 yards per catch, and this season he saw his dominator rating increase to .23, but his yards per catch drop to just 9.8.
For his first two seasons, he was stuck in an anemic passing offense that rarely used the tight end, even those ahead of him. I’m surprised Gesicki was not utilized more, particularly this year since the Nittany Lions lost Chris Godwin to the NFL. He presents such a mismatch for defenses that he should be used as much more than just a safety valve for a quarterback.
Gesicki is an excellent red zone weapon, as five of his nine touchdowns this season have come from within the 20-yard line. Of all players with at least four red zone touchdowns (100 players were eligible), Gesicki ranks 29th in red zone targets/touchdown, scoring on every 7.8 targets.
I believe that Gesicki is best suited as a red zone threat and field-stretcher at the next level. In the red zone he can use his size and top flight leaping ability to elevate over smaller defenders and grab jump balls. He’ll have one of the best catch radius’ in all of the NFL the second he enters the league.
His speed and size should also allow him to get behind linebackers and deep into the secondary. This will open up underneath and crossing routes for other players on his team. From his time at Penn State, Gesicki has shown strong hands, but his route running likely needs a little bit of work. His blocking is also well below what it should be for an NFL tight end.
I really love Gesicki as a prospect, mainly because of his athletic ability. I currently have him as my TE3 for the class behind Mark Andrews and Dallas Goedert, but all three are pretty close to being my TE1.
I see Gesicki going somewhere in the middle of the draft, likely mid third round to early fourth. If he tests well I’d be willing to take a shot on him in the third round of rookie drafts. I am concerned about his lack of production and poor blocking skills, but if I can get a top flight athlete that late in the draft I’ll definitely pull the trigger on him.
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