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: Penn State tight end Mike Gesicki talks with Dolphins

Penn State’s Mike Gesicki already has the Dolphins’ attention. (Getty Images)

Early in his time at Penn State, Mike Gesicki’s role at tight end was in jeopardy because he was having a bad time with drops. That wasn’t promising for his future at the school or his chances of one day turning pro.

But Gesicki didn’t let that derail him. He dove deep into the problem with his mind bent on burying it. He spent hours doing tennis ball drills, caught around 300 balls each day at practice and reached a point where he was confident his hands would never be a liability again.

“It was three years ago, but it seems like forever now,” he said. “I just did whatever was in my power… My last two seasons were much better. It’s very rewarding to see the hard work pay off.”

Over his junior and senior years, Gesicki became one of the most surehanded targets in Penn State’s offense and totaled 105 catches, 1,242 yards and 14 touchdowns to turn himself into one of the best tight end prospects in this year’s NFL Draft class. He is widely considered to be a top-five player at his position.

Naturally, that interests a team like the Dolphins, who haven’t had an impactful tight end in years. Their most productive player at that spot last season was Julius Thomas with 41 catches for 388 yards and three touchdowns. The year before it was Dion Sims at 26, 256 and four.

With Thomas not expected back and there being limited choices in free agency, it’s time for Miami to draft a tight end and develop him into a weapon. It’s one of the main things that’s been missing from this offense during Adam Gase’s two years as head coach.

Gesicki, 6-foot-5, 242 pounds, is a good possibility. The Dolphins would likely have a shot at him in the second round with the 42nd pick and got started on their evaluation process by sitting down with him at last month’s Senior Bowl.

Gesicki described the meeting as in-depth and efficient, with team representatives getting straight to the point about what kind of player he is. He fielded questions about what plays he’d call on certain downs and distances and what defenses he’d expect to face in some situations.

“They were putting me to the test a little bit,” he said. “I’m getting to know them and they’re getting to know me.

“Ryan Tannehill’s a great quarterback. He’s proved that. And with their receivers, they have a lot of talent. If you add one guy here and one guy there that can make a difference, it’d be awesome.”

With the hands issue in the past, Gesicki’s goal leading up to the draft is to show teams he’s a capable blocker.

“Some people question my ability to do so,” he said. “I have a great desire to do it, I’m strong enough to do it and I’m big enough to do it.”

The Dolphins have never taken a tight end in the first round—second-rounder Jim Mandich at No. 29 in 1970 was the closest—and aren’t likely to do so this year. They have the No. 11 pick overall, which appears to be a reach for even the best tight ends in this year’s class.

South Dakota State’s Dallas Goedert, South Carolina’s Hayden Hurst and Oklahoma’s Mark Andrews are thought to be the top-five tight ends, too, but it’s possible none of them will be first-round picks. ESPN analyst Mel Kiper has Andrews as the first one off the board at No. 29, and colleague Todd McShay likes Goedert going first at No. 31.

The consensus among draft gurus is that this is a year stocked with good tight ends, not great ones.

That said, Miami would be more than happy with a good one. The only tight ends currently expected to be on the roster for the upcoming season are A.J. Derby (37 career receptions), MarQueis Gray (27) and Thomas Duarte (none). The team also must decide whether it wants to bring back 33-year-old Anthony Fasano, who hasn’t said whether he intends to keep playing.

Those circumstances make it clear the Dolphins need to prioritize tight end in the draft, and Gesicki’s already got their attention.

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