2018 NFL Draft: Dolphins pick Mike Gesicki in second round at No. 42

Penn State’s Mike Gesicki has been on Miami’s radar since the start of draft preparations. (Getty Images)

DAVIE — It almost happened to the Dolphins again.

They opened the second round of the draft tonight eying Penn State tight end Mike Gesicki, who would fill a glaring need on their roster, and he was headed their way until Tennessee traded up to the spot ahead of them.

After seeing Arizona trade up to pick one spot ahead of his team in the first round Thursday, general manager Chris Grier held his breath while the Titans were on the clock.

“A little bit, yeah,” he said. “We had a couple other players that we might’ve considered if he was gone, but it worked out for us.”

Miami landed Gesicki with the No. 42 overall pick, making him the franchise’s highest-selected tight end since Andre Tillman in 1974. He will get a chance to compete for the starting job immediately when Organized Team Activities begin in May.

For an in-depth look at Gesicki as a prospect and what he discussed with the Dolphins leading up to the draft, click here.

Gesicki is 6-foot-6, 247 pounds and will be charged with providing a red-zone threat the Dolphins haven’t had the last few seasons.

As happy as the Dolphins were that he wasn’t scooped up by the Titans, Gesicki was even more thrilled. He’d been hoping for this destination.

“It’s one of the most exciting moments of my life,” he said shortly after being picked. “I’m so excited to be coming down to Miami and get to work and know that I’m exactly where I belong.

“The people in that organization, Coach (Shane) Day the tight ends coach, Coach (Adam) Gase, everybody involved, they made it seem like home when I was down a couple weeks ago.”

Gesicki put up 105 receptions, 1,242 yards and 14 touchdowns in 27 games over his junior and senior seasons at Penn State.

If the Dolphins get production along those lines from this season, it’ll boost an offense that’s desperate for it. Tight end has been a somewhat ignored position for Miami over the past few years, with late-round draft picks and scrap-heap free agents not able to do the job.

The team went into Gase’s first year with Jordan Cameron at tight end and last season with Julius Thomas. Prior to the draft, the Dolphins had A.J. Derby in line as the starter.

Thomas had 388 yards and three touchdowns on 41 catches, and he ranked 22nd or 23rd in the league in all three categories.

The top tight end in the draft, South Carolina’s Hayden Hurst, went late in the first round Thursday, and the Dolphins had their pick of everyone else at the position. Gesicki was the second tight end chosen, going seven picks ahead of South Dakota State’s Dallas Goedert.

So why Gesicki?

“His skillset and he was productive for Penn State the last two years, and as we got to know the kid, the football intelligence and just being around him multiple times, he felt like our type of guy,” Grier said.

While his numbers were good the last two years, it wasn’t all smooth for Gesicki.

He battled a drops issue early in his career at Penn State, and blocking has been a problem as well, but that didn’t deter Miami.

“The one thing everyone talks about is him not being a great blocker,” Grier said. “Well, there’s a lot of really good tight ends that are pass catchers that aren’t great blockers. It’s about giving effort. This kid wants to be a better blocker. The one thing we really loved was his skillset offensively. He’s big, he’s long, he’s fast.”

The Dolphins took safety Minkah Fitzpatrick with the No. 10 pick in the first round, which helped their secondary but didn’t address their most glaring needs. Beyond looking for a young quarterback to play behind Ryan Tannehill, Miami came into the draft with starting lineup holes at tight end and linebacker.

The draft continues tonight with the third round, when the Dolphins will select 73rd overall. They also have five picks Saturday: Nos. 123 and 131 in the fourth round, No. 209 in the sixth and Nos. 227 and 229 in the seventh.

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2018 NFL Draft: Going against own philosophy puts pressure on Dolphins

Roquan Smith could be a Miami Dolphin by the end of the night. (Getty Images)

The Dolphins try to be as guarded as possible about their intentions in the NFL Draft, which starts with Round 1 tonight. The trio that runs football operations for the organization does all it can to avoid tipping its hand.

The only morsel of insight vice president Mike Tannenbaum has been willing to divulge over the past few years is a core philosophy of not relying on the draft to fill holes in the lineup. Miami’s intention is to already have a game-ready starting 22 and enjoy the flexibility of choosing the best available talent.

That didn’t happen this year.

The Dolphins enter draft weekend with only two clear starters at linebacker and without an established tight end. If they’re serious about competing for a playoff spot this season, they’ll try to find those answers in the draft.

Their best shot at that will be in the first two nights, when they select No. 11 overall, No. 42 in the second around and No. 73 in the third. On Saturday, they have two fourth-rounders, a sixth and two sevenths.

Unless they get lucky and have a top quarterback slide to them in the first round, they’re well-positioned address linebacker at No. 11. They need someone who can be a starter this season and a fixture beyond it.

Georgia’s Roquan Smith and Virginia Tech’s Tremaine Edmunds are thought to be the best two at the position. Smith’s a little more pro-ready, but Edmunds is a tremendously talented prospect who’s only 19.

The Dolphins currently have Kiko Alonso and Raekwon McMillan in place, and there’s good cause to be optimistic about both of them.

McMillan was a second-rounder last year who was so impressive that he claimed the starting middle linebacker job before tearing his ACL in the preseason. Alonso had some issues last season, but he was good enough the year before to earn a three-year, $29 million contract extension.

The trouble is the Dolphins don’t have proven depth behind them. While a third linebacker often isn’t necessary for their defense, it is a need and they’d also like to have contingencies set up in case they run into snags like last year. Plus, they need to be prepared for Alonso’s contract running out after the 2020 season.

The other four linebackers currently on the roster are Chase Allen (four starts last year), Terence Garvin (three), Mike Hull (three) and Stephone Anthony (none).

As thin as the Dolphins appear at linebacker, their tight end situation is even more concerning. They’re currently proceeding with A.J. Derby as the logical starter, and he has 37 catches for three teams since being drafted in the sixth round of the 2015 draft.

The other options are MarQueis Gray (one catch last season), Gavin Escobar (none) and Thomas Duarte (none).

In the draft, top prospects Hayden Hurst of South Carolina and Dallas Goedert from South Dakota State are projected to go in the 20s at the earliest. The Dolphins probably wouldn’t be getting ideal value for such a high pick by taking one of them at 11th. If they really want Goedert or Hurst, the route would be trading back and acquiring extra picks or exploring a move up from No. 42 into the late first round.

Trading up in general seems highly unlikely for Miami in the first two rounds because it needs its full stock of picks as it tries to reshape a roster that went 16-16 over the last two regular seasons.

If the Dolphins can’t get Hurst or Goedert, or if they go for a quarterback in the second round, they can target someone in the next tier of tight ends in the third.

Penn State’s Mike Gesicki and Oklahoma’s Mark Andrews could go in the second or third round. Indiana’s Ian Thomas, Central Florida’s Jordan Akins, University of Miami’s Chris Herndon and Washington’s Will Dissly are later possibilities.

The roster holes put a ton of pressure on the Dolphins to get it right tonight and Friday. Hitting on the perfect combination of picks in the first three rounds is extremely difficult, and that’s without taking into account what the other 31 teams will do. It’s smart that they typically strategize their offseason in a way that avoids this situation, but this year they’ll have to make it work.

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2018 NFL Draft: Miami Hurricanes TE Chris Herndon has big upside

Chris Herndon has a big upside if he makes it all the way back from his knee injury. (Andres Leiva/The Post)

Chris Herndon refused to consider that a season-ending knee injury his senior year at the University of Miami would derail his dreams. He’s been fighting his way back from it for months, and as the NFL Draft nears, it looks like he’s in the mix to be picked.

He’s probably one of the top 10 tight ends in this year’s class despite not getting the chance to finish last season and having to rehabilitate his MCL. While most players have spent the last few months training and trying to climb draft boards, Herndon’s knee has limited what he’s able to do.

“It started by letting it heal from the surgery and then finally getting into some therapy and lifts, then some cardio and getting on the field,” he said. “I started jogging and running as fast as I possibly can (in late February) and practicing cutting as well. I feel like I’m coming along pretty well.”

He was close, but not quite full-go at Miami’s pro day last week. Nonetheless, many teams are intrigued by how Herndon progressed with the Hurricanes, increasing his catches, yards and touchdowns every year.

He met with more NFL representatives at the combine than he could recall, including the Dolphins, and looks like he could be a mid-round pick.

“I met with one of their scouts and he told me he liked my game,” Herndon said. “He talked to my coaches and he heard good things, like I’m a hardworking person and very focused. They like me.”

The Dolphins are familiar with him since he played most of his games in their stadium and they could be on the lookout for multiple tight ends in this year’s draft. It’s arguably their thinnest position depth-wise this offseason.

At present, Miami will be counting on A.J. Derby as its starter, which is a role he’s never held full-time. Since being drafted in the sixth-round in 2015, he’s been on three teams and started four games.

Behind him, the Dolphins have veteran MarQueis Gray and seldom-used backup Thomas Duarte. Gray had one catch last season. Duarte hasn’t dressed for a game since his debut in 2016.

That’s why it would make sense for the team to look for more than one this year. The Dolphins have never drafted a tight end in the first round and haven’t picked one higher than the fourth round since 2012, but that’s likely to change this year.

Miami could target Hayden Hurst or Dallas Goedert if one of them slides to the second round and is available at No. 42. There’s a decent crop of tight ends in the second tier, then there are some later options like Herndon.

He’s 6-foot-4, 253 pounds and was described by coach Mark Richt as “a warrior for us” and an easy player to coach.

“He’s going to have a really wonderful NFL career,” Richt told reporters when Herndon got hurt. “He’s been a mainstay in this offense the last two years that I’ve been here. And this year, especially, he’s been getting the lion’s share of all the reps of when the tight end’s in the game.”

Herndon capitalized on that opportunity from Richt by catching 40 passes for 477 yards and four touchdowns, making a big jump from playing behind first-round pick David Njoku in 2016. Those aren’t amazing numbers, but his overall athleticism suggests there’s a higher ceiling for Herndon at the next level as he develops.

He’s a solid blocker, too, which is something he’s emphasized in his pre-draft training in Tampa. Herndon said he’s been studying video of plays in which he got beat and has worked on corrections. He’s also been doing a lot of upper body workouts because of his knee injury.

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2018 NFL Draft: Will Muschamp has no concerns about Hayden Hurst’s mental makeup

Muschamp, the Dolphins’ defensive coordinator in 2005, had a huge role in Hayden Hurst’s development as an NFL-caliber tight end. (Getty Images)

The move from baseball to football has worked out well for South Carolina’s Hayden Hurst, who is one of the best tight ends in this year’s NFL Draft class.

That said, the reason he changed sports was a major mental issue that could be viewed as a red flag by some teams. Hurst’s professional pitching career was derailed by a case of the yips, which he was unable to fix after extensive work. There could be concerns that he might eventually have a similar block when it comes to catching passes.

His former coach, Will Muschamp, believes NFL teams would be wrong to worry about that.

“The mental side of being a pitcher in baseball is a lot different than playing tight end in the National Football League,” Muschamp said. “I know the mental qualities and intangible qualities he has as a football player, and he’s a great worker. I have no concerns about him.”

Muschamp coached Hurst, who is 6-foot-4, 250 pounds, for two years with the Gamecocks and is the one responsible for moving him from wide receiver to tight end. It was a smart move in hindsight. He caught 92 passes for 1,175 yards and three touchdowns over those two seasons and he’s projected to be a first- or second-round pick in the draft.

The Dolphins are among the teams that have spoken with him, and he said he’d be happy to return to his home state. Hurst grew up in Jacksonville.

Another unusual element is Hurst being older than most of his fellow tight ends because of his time in baseball. He will turn 25 before the upcoming NFL season begins.

Muschamp thinks that is a positive as well, because he’s more developed, but still sees a high ceiling for him.

“He’s physically more ready and more mentally mature, but he’s only played tight end for two years,” he said. “He’s still has a huge upside as a player because he’s learning more and more every day.”

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