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2018 NFL Draft

Penn State TE Mike Gesicki Has Become a Popular Player With Saints Fans, and For a Good Reason

With the New Orleans Saints appearing to have a solid showing in the "first wave" of 2018 NFL Free Agency by addressing several team 'needs' this off-season, one position that they attempted to address but came away empty-handed was the tight end position.

As you're likely well-aware: the Saints made a strong run at signing free agent (and their former original 2010 draft pick) tight end Jimmy Graham, who left the Seattle Seahawks before choosing to sign a 3-year deal with the Green Bay Packers instead.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

With Graham going elsewhere, the Saints don't appear to have much interest in the remaining available free agent tight ends at this point, but that certainly doesn't mean that the Saints still won't seek to address the position; and one obvious solution to their problem is by doing so in next month's 2018 NFL Draft in Dallas (April 26th-28th).

This year's 2018 TE Class is one of the deepest in several years, with a few players that are thought to have "superstar potential". Among them are names like Dallas Goedert of South Dakota State, Hayden Hurst of South Carolina, and Mark Andrews of the University of Oklahoma.

But the one player at the tight end position who has generated more "buzz" in the past month, and who has ROCKETED up many current NFL Draft Boards for a handful of teams: Penn State TE Mike Gesicki — who "blew away" observers and analysts with his outstanding performance at the NFL Combine 3 weeks ago.

Photo courtesy of The Philadelphia Inquirer / PennLive.com

Gesicki's jaw-dropping performance at the Scouting Combine has since leap-frogged him into the #1 spot for the tight end positional rankings, and additionally has now moved from a 3rd Round projection all the way into the end of the 1st Round; where New Orleans is currently slated to make their first pick at #27 overall.

Not surprisingly, many NFL Draft analysts across the country have began making Gesicki the "trendy pick" for New Orleans in a wide variety of very recent Mock Drafts (such as this one — click HERE to read it); and that has Saints fans that closely follow the NFL Draft every year excited with the possibility of it actually happening.

As of now, because New Orleans has been mostly successful at addressing several positional 'needs' thus far through Free Agency, they appear to be poised to take the "best player available" with the #27 overall pick; and Gesicki has now become a clear-cut favorite among many 'Who Dats' who relish the thought of adding him to the Saints offense.

Photo courtesy of United Press International

Ironically, some analysts have compared Gesicki to the previously-mentioned Jimmy Graham of Green Bay; because of their eerily similar size and athleticism.

Gesicki is the most athletically gifted tight end in this year's draft without any doubt, and that's thanks to his multi-sport background. Gesicki was a standout three-sport athlete at Southern Regional High School in New Jersey. He played and started for Southern Regional in volleyball, basketball, and football, but then he ultimately decided to pursue football and chose to attend Penn State in 2014. 

Gesicki's athleticism was on full display at the Combine 3 weeks ago, when he "wowed" NFL scouts with his measurables and his remarkable showing in a wide-variety of drills.

Gesicki measured 6-5 1/2, weighed 252 pounds, ran a 4.54 in the 40-yard dash, did 22 reps in the bench press and had a 41 1/2-inch vertical and a 10-foot, 9-inch broad jump.

NFL Network even compared his combine numbers against some other notable performances in the past by some NFL greats’ Combine results.

Gesicki was faster than WR Antonio Brown of the Pittsburgh Steelers (4.57), stronger than Donald Penn of the Oakland Raiders (21 reps), jumped higher than Odell Beckham of the New York Giants (38 1/2) and measured taller than Calvin Johnson (6-foot-5), the former WR great for the Detroit Lions who is now retired.

Gesicki is the classic definition of a "late bloomer". In his first 2 seasons for Penn State, Gesicki played in a total of 25 games but only started in 9 of them. During that span, he totaled 239 yards on 24 catches with only one touchdown.

It actually wasn’t until his junior year during the 2016 season, that he really "broke out" as a big-time receiving threat. In his junior season for the Nittany Lions, Gesicki totaled 48 catches for 679 yards and 5 touchdowns.

As noted by CBS Sports: multiple preseason All-America honors then followed, as Gesicki prepared for the 2017 regular season. And yet despite seeing 18 fewer targets as a senior than he did from the year before, Gesicki still managed to break Penn State's all-time marks for receptions (129), receiving yards (1,481) and touchdowns (15) by a tight end.

No one was targeted more often in the red zone than the 6-foot-6, 250-pound "human mismatch", as he caught 57 passes for 563 yards in Penn State's "run first" offense (led by RB Saquon Barkley) while his 9 touchdown catches tied for the team lead.

He scored twice in a game on four separate occasions as a senior last season; and with a catch in his team’s win over the University of Washington in the 2018 Fiesta Bowl, Gesicki ended his college career on a 27-game reception streak. 

He was also selected 1st-Team All-Big Ten by the media and 2nd-Team by the Big Ten coaches. 

And now with a little over a month remaining until the opening night of the Draft, Gesicki's rapid rise has put him squarely on to the Saints "short list" to be their first choice at #27.

Photo courtesy of The Philadelphia Inquirer / PennLive.com

Gesicki seemingly would be a "perfect fit" in the Saints offense, given his size and athleticism and the obvious similarities between himself and Graham; and given Graham's own notable success in the Saints offense when he was wearing the Black and Gold.

Gesicki unfortunately, might be similar to Jimmy Graham in more ways than one

Most Saints fans know that while Graham was a pass-catching phenom, he was often criticized (and still is) for his lack of blocking skills, and Gesicki appears to have similar struggles.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

thesportsquotient.com NFL Draft analyst Alex Koslow says that Gesicki is more of a slot receiver than he is a tight end, due to his liability in the run game. 

Koslow makes the observation that some tight ends aren’t seen as run blockers because they just weren’t used that way, but Gesicki strictly can’t run block. He’s tentative to go out and make a block and has trouble keeping the defenders in front of him and away from the runner. 

As Koslow cautions: Gesicki will make a career in the NFL as a tremendous receiving tight end, but if he can’t blossom as a run blocker too, it might not be as good as it could be

Photo courtesy of USA TODAY Sports

That will be something that Saints brass very likely will take into consideration; although it's important to note that it won't necessarily prevent them from selecting him anyway, especially if they feel he can improve his deficiency in that area with some proper coaching technique.

It very likely will all come down to WHO is still remaining on their Draft Board at that point, and if Saints brass feel that Gesicki is the best player available at that particular time to fill their glaringly obvious need for a "pass catching TE".

Nevertheless as the path to the 2018 NFL Draft gets even closer, Gesicki has now become one of the most popular players among potential Saints draft targets next month, with many Saints fans — who would like nothing better than to see "The Human Mismatch", wearing the Black and Gold..........

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Saints News Network Editor / Featured Columnist Barry Hirstius is a 51-year old semi-retired journalist, former New Orleans-area sports editor, and columnist previously with several sites that exclusively cover the New Orleans Saints football team. Additionally, he is a recurring guest on a variety of local Sports Talk Radio programs. Barry is also a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the team while attending games as a young boy at the old Tulane Stadium in the early 1970’s, originally following and now covering the team for a span of over 40 plus years. And perhaps most importantly of all: he is the Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity.....

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