As we move toward the 2023 NFL Season, I’m turning my focus to a series of sleeper candidates. I’ll be offering four players at each of the positions—QB, RB, WR, and TE—that I think can make a positive impact for you in fantasy. This will be a list of veteran players, as we already have our expectations set for the class of 2023. Today I continue with my look at tight ends.
Mike Gesicki has had a roller coaster the past few seasons. He seemingly peaked in 2021 and then earned the Franchise Tag. But with a new coach and a new offense, combined with the arrival of Tyreek Hill, things didn’t pan out for Gesicki in 2022. He was the forgotten man and now is looking to rebuild as part of a rebuilding offense for the New England Patriots.
The Case For Mike Gesicki
Gesicki was drafted by the Dolphins in 2018. Like many rookie tight ends, he got off to a slow start. But over the next three seasons, he continued to step up. In 2019, he caught 51 passes for 570 yards and five touchdowns. The following season, it was 53 passes for 703 yards and six touchdowns. Then, in the final year of his rookie contract, he saw 112 targets, catching 73 passes for 780 yards. That performance earned him the Franchise Tag as he looked to be emerging as one of the best tight ends in the game.
In 2022, he was the forgotten man. After seeing 85 or more targets each of the past three seasons, he saw just 53 targets, catching 32 passes for 362 yards. The Dolphins didn’t re-sign him, so he ended up in New England as a new weapon for Mac Jones and new Offensive Coordinator Bill O’Brien. The Patriots are in need of more pop in the passing game, and Gesicki could certainly provide that.
In 2020, he finished as TE7, and in 2021, he finished as TE8. The Patriots’ already had one decent tight end on the roster in Hunter Henry, but there is still plenty of potential. O’Brien served as Head Coach for the Houston Texans for years, but he was also the Offensive Coordinator for the Patriots previously. In his last season in that role with the Patriots in 2011, he used a pair of tight ends—Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez—as a huge part of the Patriots offense. With Gesicki in the fold, the pieces are in place to do it again.
The Case Against Mike Gesicki
What is the Patriots’ offense? For the past two years, it’s been hard to get a read. The team has a strong lead back in Rhamondre Stevenson and now signed Ezekiel Elliott. That could lead to a more run-heavy attack, which is certainly what the offense looked like in 2022. In addition, Stevenson saw 88 targets in 2022, showing that he’s a big part of the passing attack for a team that only had 540 pass attempts total.
That being said, the Patriots saw 187 targets vacated between the loss of Jakobi Myers, Jonnu Smith, and Nelson Agholor in free agency. That potentially leaves plenty of targets for Gesicki and new receiver Juju Smith-Schuster. But it’s all about usage. Two off-seasons back, the Patriots signed Henry and Smith to potentially be a two-tight-end passing attack that never developed. Will it happen this time? Or will Gesicki have a similar role to Henry, who finished as a low-end TE2 in 2022?
The Bottom Line
I like Gesicki and the production we’ve seen when he’s part of the passing attack. The Patriots offense was a mess in 2022, so it’s hard to take too much from the season. In 2021, Henry saw 75 targets and caught 50 passes for 603 yards and nine touchdowns. With that kind of volume, Gesicki could work in a TE1 role again. Gesicki is currently going as TE20. I like his potential value in this new attack at his current draft price.
Matthew Fox is a die-hard NFL fan and Broncos’ homer. He’s a member of the FSWA. You can find more from him on Twitter @knighthawk7734 or as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast, a part of the Campus2Canton Network.