The 2018 NFL Draft is rapidly approaching, with each of the 32 teams getting ready to make moves that could make (or break) their teams for the next few seasons. It is a sad fact that most of the players drafted will not make it with the team that drafts them. Or any team for that matter. But to outside observers, there will be players and situations that appear absolutely made for each other. One such marriage is, in my eyes at least, that of the New Orleans Saints and former Penn State tight end Mike Gesicki.
I am not the first person to make this connection, it must be acknowledged. Roy Anderson of WhoDatDish wrote about it earlier this week. But reading this got me to thinking about why it would make so much sense from a fantasy perspective.
For those in need of a recap, Gesicki had an NFL Scouting Combine for the ages earlier this offseason. He absolutely dominated the athletic testing in Indianapolis, as the image below can attest to.
PlayerProfiler has Gesicki’s Best Comparable player as former 49ers and current Washington TE Vernon Davis. Davis has enjoyed a productive NFL career, catching 873 passes for 7,072 yards and 60 touchdowns. To show that his success is not an isolated example, we can see that players who were similar to Davis as prospects have also made their mark in the NFL over a number of years.
If Gesicki can enjoy an NFL career even approaching that of Davis or people like Dustin Keller and L.J. Smith, he’ll have been worthy of the high draft stock his Combine explosion will have gifted him.
Why New Orleans?
Since the Saints disregarded the cautionary tale told by the Dolphins regarding his shoulder and signed Drew Brees, they have been among the NFL leaders in featuring the TE in their passing offense.
Brees likes to look for his TE and has developed fruitful partnerships with several over the course of his time in New Orleans.
Brees has averaged more than 7.00 adjusted yards per attempt (AYA) with five TEs since 2006. Jeremy Shockey and David Thomas are the only players at this position with at least 100 targets Brees couldn’t hit this mark with. Seriously, as impressive as Brees’ AYA with players like Jimmy Graham and Ben Watson is, just look at how efficient he was when targeting Billy Miller. Billy Miller!
The Saints have re-signed Watson for the 2018 season after Watson spent the last two seasons with the Ravens. He should certainly help to make the TE a bigger part of the Saints offense than it was last season. Saints TEs were the least targeted, and among the least productive, in the NFL in 2017.
Was this due to a decrease in efficiency from Brees last season? Not exactly, as Brees was just as efficient passing the ball in 2017 as ever.
Indeed, his second-most efficient partnership last season was with a TE, namely Coby Fleener. But that’s part of the problem. Fleener played only 32.6 percent of the Saints offensive snaps last season, missing five games with a concussion. Even prior to this injury, Fleener wasn’t exactly glued to the field. He didn’t play more than 59.5 percent of snaps in a single game.
Two Becomes One
The 2017 Saints were not the pass-happy unit of years gone by, it must be said. So the addition of a TE, particularly one who is not exactly blessed with blocking ability (or desire) may not seem to be a priority. But Brees surely wants to go out on top. Reinforcing a position that Brees has historically been able to get the best out of only makes the Saints offense more dangerous. Plus adding a player like Gesicki gives Brees’ eventual replacement a ready-made safety valve and red-zone weapon.
Gesicki profiles more as a big receiver than a traditional TE. If he were to land on the team like the Saints I don’t believe it beyond the realm of possibility that he could have a rookie season like Evan Engram enjoyed in 2017. The Saints are set on the outside with Michael Thomas and Ted Ginn. But they lack an obvious slot option. Gesicki could make this spot his own, and as such could become fantasy relevant even as a rookie. However, he’d need to compete with the Saints’ newest receiving weapon, Cameron Meredith, who ran more than half his routes out of the slot in 2016.
Charley Casserly’s most recent mock draft has the Saints taking Hayden Hurst in the first round. This shows that experts with considerable more clout than me are not opposed to the idea of the team addressing TE early in the draft. This is also evident in Bleacher Reports latest mock offering. In this case, with the 27th selection in the 2018 NFL Draft, the New Orleans Saints select … Mike Gesicki.