The knock on Mike Gesicki has always been his blocking. But that didn’t stop him from becoming the most productive tight end in Penn State history.
And, in the modern game, it wasn’t about to scare off NFL teams.
Comparing him to dynamic pass-catcher Jimmy Graham, the Miami Dolphins were happy to draft Gesicki with the 10th pick of Friday’s second round (42nd overall) as the second tight end off the board.
“It’s one of the most exciting moments in my life,” Gesicki said on a conference call with Miami reporters. “I know I’m exactly where I belong.”
He became Penn State’s highest-drafted tight end since Kyle Brady went No. 9 overall back in 1995 and the 20th tight end to be selected in school history.
Gesicki said he visited the Dolphins recently and quickly felt he would be a good fit on a team that very much needs a receiving threat at tight end.
While others at the position may be more well-rounded, Miami was ultimately sold by Gesicki’s film more than his stats or his impressive testing numbers that put him at the top of the combine.
“Jimmy Graham was not a good blocker coming out,” Dolphins general manager Chris Grier told Miami reporters. “These tall guys — name a good tight end with those types of build that are good blockers at the line of scrimmage? … I think with us, we’ll spend time and he said he wants to spend time working to improve his blocking because he wants to be the best all-around tight end in the game.
“Every kid says that coming out, and we’ll see, but we’re very excited to have him.”
At 6-foot-6 with a 4.54-second 40-time and a combine-best 41.5-inch vertical leap, Gesicki presents a big mismatch against linebackers in coverage while still having enough speed to threaten defensive backs on deep routes.
“We’re thrilled with the red zone possibilities, and he’s a hard matchup for people, being that big and athletic,” Grier said. “Move the chains on third down and then his speed will open up other stuff on the field for you. It is just a lot of possibilities.”
And the depth chart looks to be wide open after the Dolphins cut veteran Julius Thomas. Miami currently has MarQueis Gray, A.J. Derby, Thomas Duarte and the recently signed Gavin Escobar at the position, none of whom is a bonafide starter.
Gesicki joins three other Penn State grads on the Dolphins roster — a trio of former Lions captains in veteran defensive end Cameron Wake, linebacker Mike Hull and safety Jordan Lucas.
He finished his Nittany Lions career with 129 catches for 1,481 yards and 15 touchdowns, including a school-record nine for a tight end last fall.
His success came in his junior and senior seasons after a difficult sophomore year where he struggled with drops.
“Mike took the adversity he had early in his career and used it as fuel to become one of the top tight ends in Penn State history,” Lions coach James Franklin said via the school. “He is an athletic freak and showed that with his performance at the NFL combine. “Even at the next level, he will pose a matchup problem with his ability to high-point the ball and outleap his defenders.”
Gesicki joined teammate Saquon Barkley, who went No. 2 overall to the New York Giants on Friday.
Saturday figures to be a busy day for Penn State as a handful of players including Marcus Allen, DaeSean Hamilton and Christian Campbell figure to hear their names called during the final four rounds. Jason Cabinda, Grant Haley, Troy Apke, Brendan Mahon and Saeed Blacknall have also appeared in mock drafts.
Reach Derek Levarse at 570-991-6396 or on Twitter @TLdlevarse