Penn State tight end Mike Gesicki has generated a lot of hype this past week, thanks to his astounding numbers at the NFL Combine.
Comparisons have naturally followed, as analysts and draft experts try to get a better read on the tight end who could now go toward the end of the NFL draft’s first round. NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein believes he’s most similar to Los Angeles Rams TE Tyler Higbee, while NFL Network’s Mike Mayock thinks a comparison to the Philadelphia Eagles’ Zach Ertz is more appropriate.
But let’s put the eye test aside for a moment. What do the numbers say?
What tight end is most similar to Gesicki based solely on the pre-draft measurables and the college stats? That’s what we set to figure out.
Since 2000, 336 other tight ends have taken part in the NFL Combine — and only three boast numbers similar to Gesicki. What we looked for were tight ends who ran between a 4.5 and 4.6 (Gesicki: 4.54), had a vertical jump of 35 inches or more (Gesicki: 41.5), stood between 6-foot-4 and 6-foot-6 (Gesicki: 6-foot-5), weighed between 245 and 255 pounds (Gesicki: 247), were within 100 yards of Gesicki’s 563 receiving yards in his last collegiate season and were drafted in the first three rounds.
Only three tight ends fit all those prerequisites. So here are the players most like the Gesicki, based on those figures:
Greg Olsen, 2007 to present, Carolina Panthers
College/Drafted by: Miami (Fla.)/Chicago Bears (Round 1, Pick 31)
Combine height/weight: 6-foot-6/254 pounds
40 time/vertical: 4.51 seconds/35.5 inches
College stats in last season: 40 catches, 489 yards, one touchdown
Synopsis: Olsen is a three-time Pro Bowler who was actually on the sideline while Gesicki participated in the NFL Combine. “I’ll tell you what, I’m impressed,” Olsen said after watching Gesicki go through some drills. “Now, that’s as good as we’ve seen these last couple years.”
Among active NFL players, Olsen is sixth with 639 career catches and 13th with 7,556 receiving yards. Olsen showed early in his career he had the ability to take on the targets of a team-leading receiver; he had at least 39 catches in his first 10 seasons. And he was the main target from 2013 to 2016. Gesicki also has a lot of potential as a pass-catching tight end, and the two both played basketball in high school. The main difference between the two? Olsen was also known as a solid blocker, one of the NFL’s best in pass-blocking. Gesicki? Blocking is one of his weaknesses.
Olsen is set to make a $6.5 million base salary this season. He’s a strong bet to make the Hall of Fame.
Doug Jolley, 2002 to 2006, Retired
College/Drafted by: BYU/Oakland Raiders (Round 2, Pick 55)
Combine height/weight: 6-foot-4/251 pounds
40 time/vertical: 4.60 seconds/38 inches
College stats in last season: 32 catches, 492 yards, seven touchdowns
Synopsis: Jolley seemed like the next star at the tight end position after his rookie season. He had 409 receiving yards on 32 catches despite starting just three games. He started nine games the next season and 13 the season after that — but that’s when a trade occurred that’d essentially send him in a tailspin.
The Raiders traded him, along with picks in the second and seventh rounds, in exchange for the New York Jets’ No. 26 overall selection and two sixth-round picks. Jolley never became the mid-range target they hoped for. He started seven games and had 324 receiving yards in 2005, but he played mostly behind Chris Baker and was considered a disappointment. The Jets traded him the next season to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who were already loaded at the position. Jolley played in only 11 games, had a career-low two targets and was out of the NFL after that.
He resurfaced in 2015 as an offensive graduate assistant at Stanford while earning his master’s degree in economics.
Michael Egnew, 2012 to 2015, Retired
College/Drafted by: Missouri/Miami Dolphins (Round 3, Pick 78)
Combine draft/weight: 6-foot-5/252 pounds
40 time/vertical: 4.52 seconds/36 inches
College stats in last season: 50 catches, 523 yards, three touchdowns
Synopsis: He was a Mackey Award finalist in 2010 and a two-time All-Big 12 selection who never really caught on with the NFL. He was considered the third-best tight end of the draft — much like Gesicki — and was taken as the third tight end. The big knock on Egnew? His lack of blocking ability.
The big reason for his bust status in the NFL? The way he was treated by offensive coordinator Mike Sherman — because of his blocking. Egnew wasn’t asked to block in college, and it showed in the NFL. Rather than use the WR/TE hybrid in creative ways, Sherman tried everything to improve Egnew’s blocking — even forcing him to line up at fullback on some plays. One SB Nation columnist wrote, “Sherman wanted to turn an athletic pass-catching specialist into an in-line grunt of a tight end. You don’t beat a horse until it thinks it’s a cow.”
The Dolphins cut him after two seasons, after playing just 18 career games and starting in five. For the next two years, he bounced around the Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars, Pittsburgh Steelers and New Orleans Saints but never caught another pass.
Egnew recently helped open up the Athletes Performance Institute in Columbia, Mo.