Breakout or Fakeout: Mike Gesicki

Ryan Finley

In the ‘Breakout or Fakeout‘ series, we identify unproven players whose values are more reliant upon their potential than their production. Will they step up and become must-start fantasy assets? Or are they players to avoid? Read on to find out…

Today, we focus on Mike Gesicki, Miami’s third-year tight end. Let’s begin by covering his career so far.

Pre NFL Draft

The 2018 NFL Draft did not have a slam dunk top prospect at the tight end position. There were talented tight ends coming out, but not one stood head and shoulders above the rest. In most circles, however, Mike Gesicki was in the mix as the top player in the draft among other names like Hayden Hurst, Dallas Goedert and Mark Andrews.

First, let’s take a look at Gesicki’s stats during his collegiate career at Penn State.

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Statistics from

These are good numbers, but not in the upper echelon of production. (Andrews, for instance, had over 1,700 yards and 22 touchdowns in only three seasons.) On the plus side, they do show a steady increase in production, particularly when it comes to touchdown production. In Gesicki’s defense, Penn State also did not have the most scintillating offense around.

When it came to the Scouting Combine, though, Gesicki looked like a monster. He was the top prospect at the 40-yard dash, vertical jump, broad jump, three-cone and the shuttle. He admittedly fell at the bench, where he only managed the second-highest number with 22 reps. That’s a lot of boxes checked. That fantastic combine along with an upward trajectory in production at Penn State led to Gesicki drafted as the second tight end off the board in the second round.

Miami Dolphins

For his first two seasons with the Dolphins, that athletic promise hasn’t really come to fruition. Here are the numbers:

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Statistics from Pro Football Reference.

His rookie year under much-maligned Adam Gase was forgettable at best. Gesicki mustered all of 200 yards on 22 receptions. For most of the 2019 season, things looked the same for Gesicki – he just was not clicking at all. But then the last five games of the season happened, and it looked like perhaps we would finally see that promise of production fulfilled. Gesicki scored all five of his touchdowns in the last five games, along with a two-touchdown effort against the Bengals in week 16. Still, Gesicki has yet to crest the 100-yard mark in Miami.

Stats aside, how has Gesicki looked?

Film Study

2018 Film

Based on the game film from 2018, I don’t really believe that Gesicki himself was the problem. Gesicki is truly a move, pass-catching tight end, not a balanced player. Gase seemed to want to force more blocking on Gesicki, but that was never his strong suit. Even though he showed good numbers at the bench press, I haven’t seen much in the way of blocking technique, either in college or the pros. Gase was trying to fit a round peg in a square hole.

Blocking aside, Gase also tended to use Gesicki on the end of the line of scrimmage. That kind of positioning works well with tight ends that are a threat as blockers, but Gesicki is not one of those tight ends. The other example of poor positioning I saw quite a bit was Gesicki all the way on the outside, where he then had to deal with better coverage DBs. The times that Gesicki had success was when Gase used him creatively, either out of the backfield or in the slot.

2019 Film

The Dolphin’s new offensive coordinator in 2019, Chad O’Shea, learned how to effectively use Gesicki later in the season, which led to a lot of his success. Gesicki saw a lot of success as a slot receiver, or in other multi-receiver formations. This allowed Gesicki to utilize his size advantage against smaller players or his speed advantage against linebackers.

Usage aside, I saw some improvements in a few areas for Gesicki in 2019:

First, he looked better at locating the ball in traffic. Windows in the NFL are tight, and it can be tough to make those connections. Gesicki improved his ability to secure the ball in tight coverage.

Second, Gesicki really showed off his ability to high point the ball. Gesicki had that huge vertical of 41.5 in the combine, and it made its way onto the field in 2019.

And third, he became very active in red-zone situations. In my experience, one of the things the best tight ends do is help out their quarterbacks when plays break down. Gesicki could look lost in that area in his rookie year, but I saw real improvements in 2019. This improvement made him a real red-zone threat at the end of the season.

Breakout or Fakeout?

On the breakout side, Gesicki has all the physical talent in the world. He has good hands, he can make all kinds of tough catches, he’s a threat in the red zone, and he even had an instance or two of successful downfield blocks.

But the fakeout side can’t be ignored. His blocking is still almost non-existent, the quarterback situation is awfully unsettled as of right now, and he will have to learn his third offense in three seasons. New offensive coordinator Chan Gailey doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to tight ends – in fact some could say he has no track record. But he does know how to effectively utilize slot receivers – is that really what we have in Gesicki? A big slot receiver?

This is a tough call for me. When looking at tight ends, there are three things I want to see. I want to see a balanced player, who can both catch the ball and lay a block, I want to see a good football IQ, with an understanding of what to do in a variety of situations, and I want to see a motor. I love a tight end who really wants to play the position. A player who wants to fight to make tough catches or fight to spring someone else for the touchdown.

Based on what I’ve seen, I think Gesicki checks two of the three boxes – with balance being the one weakness. But when I watch that 2019 film, I can’t help but get excited about Mike Gesicki, and that’s enough for me to call him a breakout.

Verdict: Breakout