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Crabbs | PSU TE Mike Gesicki an early headliner

JAN 02 Rose Bowl - USC v Penn State
Photo by Adam Davis/Icon Sportswire

Scouting Notes

Crabbs | PSU TE Mike Gesicki an early headliner

The 2017 Tight End class was touted as a generational crop. The three first round selections, OJ Howard (19, Tampa Bay), Evan Engram (23, New York Giants) and David Njoku (29, Cleveland), have the chance to be every bit as spectacular as their draft status suggests they might be.

It’s been 15 years since the NFL last invested three first round picks into the TE position.

It last happened in 2002 when Jeremy Shockey, Daniel Graham and Jerramy Stephens went 14, 21 and 28, respectively. You have to go back another 24 years to 1978 to get another three TE crop in the first round.

Fun fact: Baltimore Ravens’ General Manager Ozzie Newsome was one of the three selected in the first round back in 1978!

The historical context of the 2017 tight end group means the 2018 class is going to have a tough act to follow. The continued evolution of the game makes tight ends more valuable to NFL offenses than they’ve ever been.

Identifying and appropriately targeting big, long bodies who can be the true X factor of a passing game is paramount to finding consistent production.

The good news? There is a senior tight end who stands poised for a massive year in the build up to the 2018 draft next spring. Penn State’s Mike Gesicki experienced an explosion in productivity during his breakout Junior season with the Lions and his long term impact is going to be felt in the B1G Conference this fall as well.


Penn State’s Mike Gesicki: An early candidate for top TE in 2018

Gesicki enters the 2017 season as a true senior, fresh off of setting the Penn State single season record for receptions (48) and yardage (679) at the TE position. Considering the pedigree of tight ends to pass through Penn State (Mickey Shuler, Kyle Brady, Troy Drayton and Ted Kwalick); its an impressive feat for the 6’6, 252 lb target.

Gesicki projects as a mismatch problem; he’s effective pushing vertically down the field and utilizes his length with great effectiveness to challenge the football.

Before being nearly shut out in the Rose Bowl (he did manage a touchdown reception for 11 yards), Gesicki was on a torrid pace. He had seven consecutive games with a 20+ yard reception, including a November that had 4 games with over 50 receiving yards a piece.

But more important than Gesicki’s long receptions is his effectiveness as a down the field receiver. During the 2016 season, Gesicki was targeted 16 times on throws of 20+ yards down the field. Penn State averaged 20.3 yards per attempt on deep throws and netted 324 yards through the air on 50% completion (8 deep receptions on 16 attempts).

The ability to press down the field figures to be a factor that is going to be attractive to NFL franchises if his pace and progression continues. Observing Gesicki’s 2016 targets leaves you with the impression that he’s only getting started.

This one pretty much says it all. The concentration while carrying 252 lbs down the field and effectively opening his frame to greet the football is superb. Gesicki sparked the Lions in the B1G Championship with this catch; a long reception that came from an inline position.  Gesicki’s got nice hands, as evidenced by his ability to extend in the red zone.

But his ball tracking and contested catch skills aren’t just effective in the deep portions; he does well in high traffic areas as well.

This is a great concentration grab on a vital game situation: 3rd and long. His skill here to squeeze the ball up the seam is a good showcase of a player that’s showing some versatility as a receiver. And as explosive as a receiver as he is down the field (Gesicki averaged over 14 yards per catch over the entire season), don’t make the mistake of assuming he’s a finesse player only.

At the end of the day, this is a player that’s listed at 6’6, 250+ lbs. Squaring a body like that up in the alley is no small chore, as Iowa Safety Miles Taylor discovers here.

In all, Gesicki is a budding star on the college level and returns to State College as the top receiving option. Also back are fellow starters Trace McSorley (QB) and Saquon Barkley (RB). The opportunities are going to be present for more contested catch, high point targets and splash plays. I’d bet Gesicki answers the call and is a hot name next January and beyond.

RELATED: Joe Marino’s 2017 Draft Tight End superlatives

RELATED: Crabbs | TE David Njoku 2017 NFL Draft report

RELATED: Ledyard | Predicting the 5 most impactful rookie TEs of the 2017 class

Kyle Crabbs

Kyle Crabbs is the founder/Director of Scouting of NDT Scouting Services, a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and the lead NFL Draft analyst for the FanRag Sports Network.

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