Ron Rivera seems to enjoy talking about Greg Olsen. And when he talks about Greg Olsen, he describes a grand vision in which Olsen is ascending, and turning the current dominant tight end duo of Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham into a formidable trio.
Surely if and when that happens, we’ll be able to come up with a far more hip name for our three new superheroes at the hippest and trendiest position. I know, we’ll just attach “gate” to the end of something, because that doesn’t happen for everything, and it’s not fair that moniker is only applied to controversies and scandals. Originality, we got it.
A while back Rivera said that since Jeremy Shockey was allowed to walk during free agency and Olsen now holds the Panthers’ TE gig all to himself, it’s possible that he could begin to reach the Gronk/Graham plateau of production. Yesterday he was at it again, pretty much because he likes trolling fantasy owners and drafters.
From The Associated Press:
“This will be his first real opportunity with us to step up and be the starting tight end and be the guy,” Rivera said. “You watch him catch footballs and you watch him run routes and you see those traits that say you can fit right into that group. We’re excited about it.”
Good enough to challenge Gronkowski and Graham?
“It’s possible,” Rivera said. “We spread the ball around so much in this offense, but I really think it’s possible for a guy to have big games and put quite a few of them together and have some big numbers.”
Olsen’s best season yardage-wise was his 612 yards in 2009 while he was still with the Bears, and that’s when he wasn’t competing with anyone else for touches. Sure, it’s definitely true that Cam Newton is better than the QB Olsen was dealing with in Chicago (sorry, Jay Cutler), but that’s still a massive jump to even a somewhat Gronkian level after everyone’s favorite shirtless body shot enthusiast set a positional record with 1,327 receiving yards last year at a pace of 82.9 per game.
But if any of the bottom tier TEs can make that jump this year, Olsen seems to be in a prime position to do it, and not just because of Shockey’s absence. As KFFL’s Tim Heaney points out, the Panthers’ system is on his side, along with Rob Chudzinski:
Carolina’s system, in its optimized form, loves feeding tight ends. Rob Chudzinski, the Panthers’ offensive coordinator, helped cultivate Antonio Gates with the San Diego Chargers and made Kellen Winslow Jr. relevant with the Cleveland Browns. In less than a full offseason (thanks, lockout), Chudzinski rejuvenated the Cats’ attack with Cam Newton running the show. (Funny how Carolina’s offense, though nearly elite, isn’t getting as much love as the New Orleanses and New Englands of the world. Man, they’re dangerous.)
We’re very much in the business of value mining here, which makes Olsen a highly appealing option even if he fails to make the ascension Rivera is so eager to talk about when there’s someone around to listen. If other priorities and needs force you to miss out on the top two tiers of tight ends, then once Brandon Pettigrew comes off the board some time around the beginning of the 10th round, sit and wait.
Once you get to that draft real estate, Jared Cook is an appealing breakout option too, and so is Jermaine Gresham. But then the likes of Owen Daniels and Brent Celek rely on the health of their quarterback — which is questionable in both cases — and Olsen could easily put up similar numbers. The best part? He’s often coming off the board near the 14th round in 10-team leagues.
That’s maximizing your draft position, and maximizing value.