2017 Preseason Award Projections: Mackey Award

By Charlie Campbell
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Heading into the 2017 college football season, WalterFootball.com will debut our projections for the nation’s leaders during the fall. The All-American teams always have some surprises, and the next fall’s stars could be the headline players next April for the 2018 NFL Draft. We also will project the winners of the post-season awards that are given out to the best of college football.

The Mackey Award is given to the top tight end in college football. I’ve correctly predicted the Mackey Award winner for five straight years. Two years ago, our prediction was Arkansas’ Hunter Henry, who won the award. We hit it the previous year with Florida State’s Nick O’Leary bringing home the honor. That was the fourth year in a row we correctly predicted the Mackey Award winner after getting it right with Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Tyler Eifert, O’Leary, Henry, and Jake Butt made it five straight.

Mackey Award Winner:

Troy Fumagelli, Wisconsin

The Mackey Award favors tight ends who are more than just blockers or receivers. It likes the winner to be effective in both aspects of tight end play. With that in mind, Fumagelli makes a lot of sense as the favorite to win the Mackey Award. I think I have a real shot of hitting six straight with Fumagelli as my prediction.

Fumagelli turned in an impressive junior season with 47 receptions for 580 yards and two touchdowns. He has good size, is athletic, and comes from a pro-style offense. Fumagelli was the Badgers’ leading receiver last year and should be the focal point of Wisconsin’s passing offense in 2017. He also is a contributor to Wisconsin’s blocking, and the Badgers have a well-known tradition of a strong rushing attack with good blocking talent. Fumagelli has the talent and a favorable schedule as he isn’t seeing a lot of elite safeties or linebackers to go against in coverage. This season could be a big senior year for Fumagelli, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he wins the Mackey Award.

Mackey Runner-Up:

Mike Gesicki, Penn State

It was a tough call to have Gesicki as the runner-up. I think he will have a quality year blocking for Saquon Barkley and also contributing as a receiver for Penn State.

Gesicki turned in an impressive 2016 season with 48 receptions for 679 yards and five touchdowns. It was a huge increase in production over his sophomore and freshman years when he was a backup. With quarterback Trace McSorley now having a year of experience, Gesicki could produce an even bigger 2017 season. Additionally, defenses will be focused on selling out to stop star running back Saquon Barkley, so Gesicki should see a lot of favorable looks and matchups. Gesicki could end up producing a huge 2017 season for the Nittany Lions.

Mackey Dark Horse:

Mark Andrews, Oklahoma

Scouts who have done advance work on the 2018 NFL Draft class put Andrews among their top tight end prospects. Andrews totaled 31 receptions in 2016 for 489 yards and seven touchdowns. The 6-foot-5, 250-pounder has good size with quickness and athletic ability. He is a dangerous red-zone threat for Oklahoma and also can make long touchdown receptions with his impressive ability to run away from defenders. With the Sooners losing their top two running backs to the NFL, the team could lean heavier on quarterback Baker Mayfield and the passing game. Andrews could have a huge season against the vulnerable Big XII defenses and looks likely to be in the running as the top tight end in college football.

Honorable Mentions: Florida’s DeAndrew Goolsby, Wake Forest’s Cam Serigne, Florida State’s Marvin Saunders, Kentucky’s C.J. Conrad, Ohio State’s Marcus Baugh, Tennessee’s Ethan Wolfe and Stanford’s Dalton Schultz.

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