The Miami Dolphins focused on speed and athleticism in Friday’s second and third rounds of the NFL draft, selecting Penn State tight end Mike Gesicki in the second round and Ohio State linebacker Jerome Baker in the third round.
Both players make the Dolphins more athletic, and both players figure to fit in nicely with today’s NFL passing game, which features highly-specialized players catching passes and defend pass-catching players such as tight ends, wide receivers and running backs.
Gesicki, who also played volleyball and basketball in high school, said his skill set gives him an advantage on the field.
“It allows me to stretch the defense, it allows me to get up the field quickly, it allows me to high-point the ball,” he said.
Dolphins general manager Chris Grier said Baker’s athleticism is more than a distinguishing characteristic, it’s the trend of the NFL.
“He’s the prototypical, new-age type inside linebacker,” he said.
As a side story of note, once again Miami decided against drafting a quarterback.
The Dolphins enter Saturday’s final day of the draft with five picks — one in the fourth round, two in the sixth round and two in the seventh round.
Dolphins' third-round pick Jerome Baker a 'new-age type inside linebacker'
Miami still has needs at defensive tackle and perhaps backup quarterback, backup offensive line, cornerback and running back.
But the Dolphins seem happy with the work they’ve done in the first three rounds.
Gesicki had 57 receptions for 563 yards and nine touchdowns as a senior last season. He’s a seam-running tight end who is also effective in the red zone.
Grier praised Gesicki’s athleticism and its place in the league.
“You see the plays, the height, the vertical jump,” he said. “You see that, him going up and high-pointing the ball. For us, finding that skill set like that was very important.
“I think in this league, it’s a matchup league, and with what tight ends can do, he’s got a unique skill set that not many guys in this league have.”
Baker had 72 tackles (eight for losses) and 3.5 sacks as a junior last season.Baker doesn’t lack confidence, describing himself as “versatile, tough, fast, a dynamic player,” before adding, “I’m the whole package.”
The addition of Baker, along with Alabama free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, the first-round pick, fits along with Miami’s overall defensive plan to acquire more speed.
“We want to get faster on defense so adding him and Minkah the first two days, it was a big priority for us,” Grier said.
The Dolphins opted to bypass drafting a backup quarterback Friday, electing to decline the chance to select players such as Mason Rudolph (Oklahoma State) and Luke Falk (Washington State).
Grier didn’t seem to mind.
“It was a consideration,” Grier said of possibly selecting a quarterback, “but for us, Baker was a guy at that spot that was too good to pass up.”
Gesicki figures to become the starter ahead of returnees MarQueis Gray, A.J. Derby and Thomas Duarte and newcomer Gavin Escobar.
Gesicki said his blocking needs work but Grier didn’t seem to be bothered.
“[Green Bay tight end] Jimmy Graham was not a good blocker coming out,” Grier said. “These tall guys name a good tight end with those types of build that are good blockers at the line of scrimmage?
“Most of the time it is leverage and stuff and taller guys at the point of attack have a hard time getting down. This guy can bend and do it, and it’s developing that strength and stuff, but a lot of these guys have a hard time and in the college game, a lot of these guys are flexed-out in space.”
Baker, who played weakside linebacker at Ohio State and projects as a weakside linebacker in the NFL, figures to contend for a starting job alongside middle linebacker Raekwon McMillan and weakside linebacker Kiko Alonso.
Grier isn’t concerned that his linebackers are on the smaller side. Traditionally, strongside linebackers, called “Sam” linebackers, are hulking players, but the game is changing, and so are the Dolphins.
“Some of those are the way of dinosaur, those Sams now,” Grier said.