Greg Olsen is not often mentioned as one of the best tight ends around, in real or fantasy football, but he finished 2013 as the eighth-highest scoring tight end in ESPN standard leagues and produced solidly across the board (73 receptions for 816 yards and six touchdowns). He has now topped 800 yards in each of the last two seasons, and his role looks likely to expand this year with the Carolina Panthers losing multiple wide receivers in free agency.
As mentioned the Panthers were hit hard in free agency at wide receiver, most notably losing Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell. Some additions were made in free agency (Jerricho Cotchery, Jason Avant) and the draft (Kelvin Benjamin), but a rational argument can be made that Olsen is now Carolina’s best pass catcher.
Olsen tied for the fourth-most targets among tight ends last year (111; 6.9 per game), including 17 targets (tied for third-most at the position) in the red zone. It’s fair to think both numbers will go up this year.
Olsen has not missed a game in any of the last six seasons, and he has at least three receptions in 26 of 32 games over the last two seasons.
The Panthers threw the ball 473 times in 2013 (30th in the league; 29.6 per game), and with a deep stable of running backs and quarterback Cam Newton’s running ability they will remain a run-oriented offense.
Without a lot of other great options in the passing game, opposing defenses could choose to focus on keeping Olsen under wraps. Even with the likelihood of more targets, his consistency on a game-to-game basis might suffer.
Even with a lot of optimism surrounding him right now Olsen is still a notch below the elite tier of fantasy tight ends, which may be Jimmy Graham and no one else any way. But Olsen may wind up being the most consistent option among the next handful of tight ends to go off the board in drafts and auctions, and even without the ability to carry a fantasy team to victory with a big game once in awhile that consistency carries a lot of value.
Bye Week: Week 12
Projected Round: Ninth Round (12-Team Leagues)
Auction Value: $2 (ESPN.com)