The purpose of this series is to highlight lesser valued, lower ADP tight ends who have the potential to offer fantasy owners a very high return on their invested capital. They are not the bonafide stars who come equipped with a high price tag and somewhat guaranteed production. The previous article in this series examined Titans’ TE Jonnu Smith and can be read here for those who are interested https://fantasyfuru.com/2020/06/10/tes-to-target-jonnu-smith/
In this piece we’ll be taking an in-depth look at Miami Dolphins TE, Mike Gesicki. Since breaking out in his junior year at Penn State, followed by his incredible performance at the NFL combine in 2018, fantasy players have been waiting for Gesicki’s breakout in the NFL. Last season, Gesicki teased with some spectacular, yet inconsistent play. As he enters his third NFL season, which happens to coincide with his age 25 season, there are numerous reasons to believe this is the year he becomes a reliable fantasy option. Let’s begin by briefly examining Gesicki’s college production and combine performance.
Highly recruited and sought after out of high school, Gesicki eventually committed to Penn State University. As a freshman and sophomore, his numbers were nothing to write home about. Instead, it was Gesicki’s stellar performance during his junior season that marked his breakout in a big way. Encouragingly, he was able to follow that up with another very strong season as a senior. Below I’ve posted Gesicki’s major receiving stats from his time in college.
Upon the conclusion of his senior season, Gesicki promptly decided to light up the NFL combine. Before we run through some of his metrics, it’s worth noting that Gesicki checks in at a towering 6’6, 250 lbs. Now, let’s take a look at those metrics.
|40-Yard Dash||Speed Score||Burst Score||Agility Score||SPARQ|
|4.54 (96th%)||118.7 (95th%)||137.1 (99th%)||10.86 (99th%)||136.9 (97th%)|
Those numbers are absolutely eye-popping. Throw in the fact that I didn’t include his 100th% catch radius, 129” broad jump or 41.5” vertical jump and we can confidently conclude that he’s a freak athlete. Of course, great combine performances do not necessarily translate into NFL success.
Gesicki also had several knocks on his game coming out. Most notably, his porous blocking and somewhat undeveloped route tree. However, the magnitude of Gesicki’s combine performance played a role in vaulting him up draft boards, ahead of the likes of Mark Andrews and Dallas Goedert. Ultimately, he was selected 42nd overall by the Miami Dolphins.
Through his first two NFL seasons, we’ve seen steady and solid development in Gesicki’s game. Despite playing on a very bad team, working with multiple QB’s and having to endure Adam Gase, Gesicki has been able to progress in most statistical categories. Below are some of his receiving stats through his first two seasons.
To be frank, none of these categories are outstanding and I would really like to see some increased efficiency in 2020 with respect to his catch rate (57.3%). It may not be fair to solely blame Gesicki for that number as his QB play was suspect and the offensive line even worse. What’s also discouraging, is the fact that on a FPPG basis, Gesicki finished as the TE 17. He did enjoy a bump in FPPG following the Preston Williams injury. Furthermore, the large uptick in targets, receptions, yards, scores and snaps that Gesicki saw last season are encouraging trends that we should expect to continue this season. Qualitatively, we saw Gesicki make a number of extremely nice contested catches last season that are indicative of a playmaker.
As we shift our focus to what the 2020 season has in store, there are numerous reasons for fantasy players to be optimistic about Gesicki. First, he still carries a relatively attractive price tag in both redraft (ADP 113, TE13) and dynasty (ADP 104, TE 12) entering his age 25 season. This is especially true when we take into account his mouth watering upside. Second, the Dolphins’ offense is going to be improved which will translate into more time on the field and scoring opportunities. Third, he faces minimal competition for snaps from other TE’s, should have heavy passing-game usage, and targets are there for the taking. Fourth, the Dolphins should still have plenty of Gesicki-friendly game script this season.
Age and ADP
I won’t spend too much time on this, as the points are pretty straightforward. As far as tight ends not named Rob Gronkowski go, it’s incredibly rare to put up meaningful fantasy stats prior to their age 25 season. If you play dynasty, the possibility of landing a stud TE prospect, prior to an impending breakout, at the age of 25 is an enticing proposition. Whether targeting Gesicki or someone else, I’m a big proponent of this strategy. Largely, this is due to how much harder patience is in practice than theory. As dynasty players will know, it’s an imperative quality to developing long-term success.
It’s no secret to, well anyone, that the Dolphins have been a mediocre franchise for some time. After last year’s complete and utter teardown, the offense looks a lot more competent entering this year. During the offseason, the Dolphins hired former OC Chan Gailey back to once again handle coordinator duties. Most will vaguely remember Gailey from his numerous AFC East stops and five seasons together with Fitzmagic. This includes the 2015 season where he set career highs in both yards and touchdowns. I’m trying not to read too much into this move, but it’s conceivable the Dolphins plan on moving forward with Fitz in 2020 until he forces their hand otherwise. To be clear, I don’t think Tua would necessarily be a downgrade for Gesicki’s outlook this season nonetheless, it’s reassuring that he found most of his success with Fitz under center.
When we examine the rest of the offense, there are several areas to discuss, beginning with the offensive line. It’s no secret that the Dolphins’ line was bad last year but how bad was it? Atrociously bad. So bad in fact, that they finished as the worst, or among the worst in just about every metric. Mercifully, they took it upon themselves to address that in a big way this offseason. In free agency, they inked Ereck Flowers and Ted Karras who are projected to step in as immediate starters. Not stopping there, the Dolphins went on to draft Austin Jackson, Robert Hunt and Solomon Kindley at 18, 39 and 111 overall. Regardless of how well each one of them translates to the NFL next season, it’s safe to say that the additions should have a net positive effect on the line’s performance. The QB(s) and RB’s will be the most direct beneficiaries of this but it should also give Gesicki more time to get open.
Finally, if the offense improves as I suspect it will, everyone should benefit from increased time on the field, more plays per game and more scoring opportunities. Based on what we’ve seen thus far, it’s safe to say that Gesicki is going to be a red zone weapon in this league and I expect the Dolphins begin to feature him more down there.
Usage and Competition
As far as the TE position goes, the Dolphins’ depth chart beyond Gesicki is wildly thin. This, of course, is fantastic news for Gesicki owners as the threat of a timeshare is non-existent. I always preach about the correlation between opportunity and production in fantasy. Moreover, I believe it acts as a buffer to provide players with a much higher floor than those who rely on excellent efficiency. As we saw earlier, Gesicki’s snap share has steadily risen from each year and I anticipate another jump in 2020. Last season, he received 89 targets with a 65% snap share. If we assume a 75% snap share in 2020, we can project him to receive 102.6 targets. This alone should push Gesicki into top 10 TE territory. And, if we see a surge in his efficiency, which the offensive line should help facilitate, we may be looking at a statistical explosion.
In terms of competition, the Dolphins boast a couple polarizing pass catchers in Parker and Williams who played very well last year and I expect them to remain a big part of the Dolphins’ passing game this season. In the same vein, they’re not good enough to cast Gesicki aside. As a result, there’s a very real chance that Gesicki could emerge as the top option in this passing attack and if not, he should at least settle in as the #2. I should point out that Gesicki’s most consistent production did occur with Williams out of the lineup, making this a situation to monitor closely throughout the year.
While the Dolphins should be a much better team than they were last season, that’s not really saying much. Currently, oddsmakers have them pegged as a bottom 8 team which tells us they’re likely to experience plenty of positive game script from a fantasy perspective. I want to stress that the expectation of positive game script is not a sole factor that our decisions should be based upon. However, it is certainly worthy of consideration and is something we would rather have in our favour than working against us. Bottom line, the Dolphins should still throw the ball plenty in 2020.
As I conclude this lengthy piece, it’s worth pointing out that this year has the makings of a deeper TE landscape than years in recent past. If this assertion is correct, it would serve fantasy players well to exercise patience on draft night. At this moment, Mike Gesicki is presenting players with the opportunity to land an extremely athletic, talented TE with second round draft capital as he enters his age 25 season. There is no such thing as certainty in fantasy football but for the reasons listed in this piece, Gesicki offers players a low downside, high upside option at TE this season and beyond. Remember, our goal is to put the probabilities in our favor and then sit back, drink a beer and let the chips fall where they may.