We come to Miami Dolphins tight end Mike Gesicki in our latest look back on the 2018 rookie crop. Gesicki entered his debut season with high hopes and expectations, even taking into account the relative difficulty rookie TEs have in becoming productive immediately. It is probably fair to say that he came nowhere close to meeting these standards. Although to be truthful, the blame for this “failure” does not sit squarely with Gesicki.
We’ll take a look back at the positives (there are not that many) and negatives of Gesicki’s first year in the NFL from a numbers point of view. We’ll also look at a few players who enjoyed a similar rookie season to him. We’ll take a quick look at how they’ve fared since their rookie seasons. This will allow us to see a possible range of outcomes for Gesicki moving forward. Then we’ll touch briefly on his outlook for 2019.
In order to find some comparisons for the first year from Gesicki, I set the RotoViz Screener
to find rookies from 2008 to 2018, and selected some basic production and usage numbers as variables. I also included the draft pick. The influence of draft pick on a player’s opportunity declines over time, but it’s still relevant heading into a player’s second season. Then I asked the Screener to find seasons comparable to my target player.
So whose footsteps is Gesicki walking in?
Not the most encouraging company to be keeping, I’ll grant you. But if there is one poster boy from the above group, it is undoubtedly Eric Ebron. Ebron was seen as a bust during his time with the Lions. Although to his credit, he was 13th among all TEs in receptions and 15th in yards between 2014-2017 with 186 and 2,070. But he enjoyed a career year with the Colts in 2018. The change of scenery did him a power of good, it would seem.
It is important to once again stress that rookie TEs face perhaps the steepest learning curve of any position in the NFL. They are forced to learn to block NFL defenders, as well as learn NFL pass routes, all of which can mean a quiet start to their time in the pros. This does not give all rookies a free pass, of course. But it can be the case that the first-year cons often outweigh the pros. This does not mean that the positives should be dismissed out of hand, however.
Gesicki saw at least three targets in five games in 2018, with two games in which he was targeted five times. He amassed at least three receptions in four outings, with a high of four receptions against the Texans. Gesicki led all Dolphins TEs in snap share, playing on 43.48 percent of the Dolphins offensive snaps. Nick O’Leary was next, with a 40.43 percent share. All in all, Gesicki played 400 snaps in 2018 and ran a pass route on 166 of them. This means that he was an active part of the passing offense, and therefore fantasy relevant, on 41.5 percent of his total plays as a rookie.
Gesicki didn’t go out of his way to hurt the team with silly mistakes, either. He drew a single penalty, a holding call, and wasn’t charged with a single drop. Gesicki amassed just over half of his total receiving yards after the catch, and his 4.7 YAC per reception was 24th among all TEs with at least 20 receptions in 2018. So there were some things to like.
Sadly, from a counting point of view, there are more reasons to frown than to smile. Gesicki may have led the Dolphins TE in snaps, but he still didn’t see the field all that often. He played on 83.7 percent of the Dolphins snaps in their Week 4 loss to the Patriots. He would post a mark in excess of 47.4 percent just once in his remaining 12 games.
Gesicki posted a high of 44 yards against the Lions, in what would turn out to be his only game with more than 31 yards all season. He didn’t reach 20 yards in 12 games, with a further two games with 23 and 26 yards. He drew one or fewer targets in seven games. There is a noticeable drop off in Gesicki’s opportunities, and therefore production, after Week 8 of the season.
Despite his size and athletic skills, the Dolphins didn’t make use of Gesicki in the scoring areas. He had just six red-zone targets all season, with only two following Week 7. He was also not exactly a big play producer, with just a single catch of at least 20 yards all season long. His lack of red-zone work, and an absence of splash plays, more than contributed to his failure to find the end zone at all in 2018. These factors led to his being all but irrelevant from a fantasy standpoint all season long. Gesicki’s highest weekly finish was as TE17. This was his second and final TE2 finish of the season.
In Gesicki’s defense, the Dolphins offense was not geared towards getting pass catchers involved on a regular basis. Nor was it geared towards volume for anyone in it. The Dolphins ran only 878 plays last season, the fewest in the NFL by 24 (the Cardinals managed only 902). They attempted the third-fewest passes in the whole NFL last season, with only the Titans and Seahawks attempting fewer than their 507. Dolphins quarterbacks Ryan Tannehill and Brock Osweiler targeted their TEs on 13 percent of these passes. The NFL average was 20 percent. Only the Lions targeted their TEs less frequently. Gesicki was almost doomed from the start.
Thankfully for Gesicki, and probably for most of the skill position players on the Dolphins, Adam Gase and his cronies are now officially the New York Jets problem. Brian Flores is the new sheriff in town, and he has brought Patriots wide receiver coach Chad O’Shea with him to serve as his offensive coordinator. This will be O’Shea’s first gig as an OC, and while he comes off a long run of working with WRs, he does have some experience working with TEs. He was the TEs coach at the University of Houston between 1998-1999.
O’Shea has been part of Josh McDaniels’ staff with the Patriots, so it is safe to assume that O’Shea may look to ape as much of this system as possible. This, on paper, is great news for Gesicki. As many are well aware, the Patriots TE position has been one of the most productive spots in the whole of football for much of the last decade. The Patriots main TE has amassed at least 682 yards in six of the last seven seasons, with three 1,000 yard campaigns for Rob Gronkowski. Gesicki is not Gronkowski, of course, and the Patriots offense has been more than ably run by Tom Brady during this stretch. Brady will not, I think it safe to assume, be joining the Dolphins ahead of the 2019 season. But even a Patriots Lite offensive approach has to be good for Gesicki. It remains to be seen how the Dolphins will address the QB position in 2019, as Tannehill is a virtual lock to be released. Given the quality of the Dolphins’ QB play last season, an upgrade is not out of the question.
The bar for improvement for Gesicki is admittedly pretty low after his rookie season. Even if he becomes a bigger factor in the Dolphins offense, we still don’t know how good that offense is going to be.1 With this in mind, while I am prepared to boldly state that Gesicki will be better in 2019, I am not prepared to say that fantasy owners should care at this time. I certainly don’t (yet).
- Narrator “It was not good.” (back)