Welcome to NFL Match-Maker. In this segment of articles, Last Word on Pro Football is going to look at putting together teams and players I believe would be “matches made in heaven” (Think “old cheesy dating show” caliber matchmaker.)
Let’s begin with our first match: a highly-praised tight end, and a team in search for a fit.
Which NFL Team Is the Best Fit for Tight End Mike Gesicki?
Background: Mike Gesicki was born in Manahawkin, New Jersey. The 22-year-old was a standout athlete not just in football in high school, but also in basketball and volleyball. In high school at Southern Regional High School, Gesicki broke school records in all three sports, including becoming the all-time leading point scorer for the basketball team (1,866), leading pass catcher in football (1,817), and top blocker in volleyball (519). He was rated as a three-star recruit by all three major scouting services in Scout, 247, and Rivals.
College Achievements: In college at Penn State, Gesicki’s nickname was “The Mismatch.” And that very thoroughly describes his abilities. In his four seasons at Penn State, he ranked ninth in school history with 129 catches. He finished his career with 1,481 yards and hauled in 15 receiving touchdowns. All three numbers are Penn State tight end records. Gesicki consistently played against Power Five competition and faced some of the toughest defenses in his time in the Big Ten.
The Potential Match: New Orleans Saints
Their Needs: As with every episode of any generic “Match-Maker” show you’d see on television, the potential suitors both have needs. In this case, Gesicki’s biggest need is the need for an NFL team that fits him well, so we’ll focus on the needs of his potential partner: the Saints.
The Saints tight ends last year were less than optimal, to say the least. Michael Hoomanawanui, Josh Hill, and Coby Fleener took up most of the responsibilities. The Saints tight end staff looked promising after the Saints signed Fleener in free agency in 2016, but he has been unable to produce in a consistent form during his tenure in New Orleans. A return to form for him would be a huge boost to the Saints, who haven’t had a legitimate receiving threat since Ben Watson’s exit.
Of course, the Saints brought back Watson during this year’s free agency in a deal that was celebrated by Watson, the team, and fans alike. Watson is definitely an upgrade to the current Saints personnel at the position, but he’s 37 years old and on a one year deal.
Tight end is certainly one of the highest positions of need for the Saints and one they most certainly have been watching throughout the draft process.
Gesicki impressed all around in the 2018 NFL Combine and solidified his reputation as being an all-around athlete that creates a mismatch for opposing defenses. He is quick off the line with a smooth release and has the ball skills to beat linemen and safeties. He has good ability to go up and get the ball and make tough catches, as he repeatedly showed in college while using effective head fakes to get open. Many media members also comment on his consistency in the pass-catching game, and in his time at Penn State, he dropped a ridiculously low number of passes, and in his last two years had almost no legitimate drops.
Gesicki is sometimes lazy on his routes. It’s one thing that I’ve often seen commented on, that he may slack off on, or round off his routes rather than have them be straight across. Perhaps Gesicki’s biggest weakness, however, is his blocking. He fits the Jimmy Graham mold in that he is a great pass catcher and a freak athlete, but he struggles to line up and block opposing defenses. He is an average or below average pass blocker, but most people believe he is a near-liability in the run game.
Summary: Gesicki has lived up to his reputation of being a big mismatch thus far in his career. His physical ability and above average hands allow him to line up and fit into most pass-heavy offenses, making him a good match for the Saints. Drew Brees certainly knows how to use his tight ends, and Gesicki would serve as a great option for him to throw to. These attributes are what make up for Gesicki’s struggles when it comes to blocking. Though this side of his game may be a work in progress, he would be an asset to any team looking for a receiving tight end due to his physical characteristics and pass catching ability. The veteran tight ends on the staff may even allow the Saints some wiggle room, with a year of soft-use and good development.
When the Saints are on the clock, do they accept their match?