Olsen's initials are GO but OG might be more appropriate. He plays one of the most physically demanding -- and injury-riddled -- positions in the NFL, but somehow he hasn't missed a game since 2007. Just showing up this often is worthy of our praise, but we'll double down on the adoration, given how productive Olsen is. His touchdown count was a disappointment in 2016, but he was fourth in catches at the position and second in yards. It was enough to make Olsen the No. 3 TE in PPR scoring (No. 2 in standard). Here's how he's ranked the last five seasons: third, fifth, fifth, seventh, seventh. Olsen is also the only tight end in league history to top 1,000 yards receiving three consecutive years, showing no sign of aging even as he prepares for his age-32 season. The Panthers added two notable pass-catching threats in the draft -- RB Christian McCaffrey and WR Curtis Samuel -- so there might be a bit more competition for the ball this year. But we're willing to bet Olsen lands in the 120-130 range for targets -- like he has for three years running -- and last year's touchdown count was the low end of Olsen's range. You're making one of the safest picks imaginable when you cut the check on Carolina's veteran.
After his first 1,000-yard season, Olsen entered last year staring regression in the face as the Panthers, finally, looked to have more receiving options. But Kelvin Benjamin suffered a season-ending injury and second-round pick Devin Funchess failed to develop, leaving Olsen as the only reliable target for Cam Newton. Olsen saw 28.2 percent of the team's targets, second most to Cleveland's Gary Barnidge among TE. In fact, he was six catches from matching Carolina's next two leading receivers (Ted Ginn, Jerricho Cotchery) combined. All of which led to career highs in nearly every category. The Panthers use the versatile Olsen all over the field, but last year they took better advantage of his 4.51 speed as he was targeted in the 21-30-yard range 14 times, up from two in 2014, helping him post 20 receptions of 20-plus yards (2nd), 14.3 YPC (2nd) and 8.9 YPT (3rd) - all career highs by a good margin. At 6-5, 253, Olsen was a steady presence in the red zone, as well, garnering 18 targets, nine inside the 10 - this on a team that led the league in red-zone rushes by 23 -though he only converted four. The Panthers will continue to use Olsen more as a wide receiver than a tight end, but Benjamin is expected to be healthy for camp and Funchess should improve in Year 2, providing more competition for targets.
Olsen topped 1,000 yards last year for the first time in his career, largely because of Carolina's lack of viable receivers. Olsen's only competition for targets was rookie wideout Kelvin Benjamin, who matched him with 1,008 receiving yards. That allowed Olsen to post a career-high 123 targets as he and Benjamin, both 6-5, created nightmare matchups with defensive backs. Olsen used his size and speed for a career-high 8.2 YPT and nine receptions of 20-plus yards. He had three 100-yard games — his only other came in 2012 — as well as five double-digit target games and the first two games of his career with double-digit catches. And even with sharing red-zone targets with Benjamin in an offense that already prefers to run near the goal line, Olsen still had five red-zone touchdowns (six in 2013). Whether there are enough targets to go around this year, particularly in the red zone, likely will depend of the development of second-round draft pick Devin Funchess, a 6-4, 232-pound tight-end/wide-receiver hybrid.
Olsen's production last season practically mirrored his stats from 2012, despite the decline of Steve Smith and a new offensive coordinator. Smith had 28 fewer targets last season, but Olsen's only increased by seven. And Olson's red-zone use did not change much with the arrival of play-caller Mike Shula, who showed the same penchant for running in the red zone as his predecessor -- the Panthers passed on just 40.1 percent of their red-zone plays last season, third lowest in the league. The changes this year, though, could have a bigger impact on Olsen, who led the Panthers in receiving last year, using his athleticism and speed to make plays downfield (12 catches of 20-plus yards). Not only is Smith gone, but the Panthers do not return a wideout who caught a pass last season. The team signed Jerricho Cotchery, Jason Avant and Tiquan Underwood and drafted the 6-5 Kelvin Benjamin. The lack of a true No. 1 receiver could bring more defensive attention to Olsen, who also figures to spend less time split wide or in the slot. What's more, the addition of tight end Ed Dickson makes two-TE sets likely and could cost Olsen some targets. The last time he shared the position, in 2011 with Jeremy Shockey, he finished with 89 targets.
Olsen set career highs of 69 catches and 843 yards last year, but his five touchdown catches were no better than his tally from 2010 or 2011. Olsen was also used more downfield last season, as he has the speed to get to the second level. He posted a career-high 8.1 yards per target, two yards more than his 6.1 mark in 2011. He also had 11 receptions of 20-plus yards after totaling nine the previous two years combined.
Olsen benefits from the lack of playmakers in the Carolina passing game, but is hurt by the offense's penchant for running at the goal line. Olsen's 14 red-zone targets tied Steve Smith for the team lead, and Louis Murphy, who had 13 red-zone targets, left for the Giants. That said, the Panthers completed only eight touchdown passes in the red-zone last year (29th) while scoring 18 times on the ground, (3rd). Even with a new offensive coordinator this year that's not likely to change with the team’s bevy of goal-line running options in the backfield.
Olsen had completely different halves to last season, starting strong before fading down the stretch. Shut out in the final two games, he recorded only 181 receiving yards and one touchdown in the second half after totaling 359 receiving yards and four touchdowns the first eight games. Part of his reduced role was due to Jeremy Shockey, who isn’t expected to return to the Panthers this season. Not the greatest blocker, Olsen is a polished route runner who uses his length to make himself a large target. With continued growth from Cam Newton, and no other tight end to steal targets, Olsen could be in for a surprising season. Combining his and Shockey’s stats last season produces 995 receiving yards and nine touchdowns, showing the possible production for a solo Olsen.
Olsen doesn’t have elite speed for the position but has good hands and runs precise routes. Unfortunately, he fell victim to the Mike Martz offense and was used more as a blocker than a receiver. The Bears offensive line was downright terrible at times last year as well, which also forced Olsen to stay in and max protect Jay Cutler. As a result, Olsen only saw 69 targets, a significant drop from the 108 he had in 2009. Chicago's playoff win against Seattle showed Olsen’s upside, though, as he hauled in three catches for 113 yards and a touchdown. Olsen will compete for TE looks in Carolina with Jeremy Shockey after his trade to the Panthers, but despite the potential for some form of time-share on that front, he's escaped the clutches of Mike Martz, whose offense in Chicago did not exactly favor tight ends in the passing game.
Olsen had the best season of his three-year career in 2009, catching 60 passes for 612 yards and eight touchdowns. Despite the career-year and establishing himself as Jay Cutler's favorite red zone target, Olsen's fantasy value took a hit this offseason when the Bears hired Mike Martz as offensive coordinator. Martz's offense tends to use tight ends as blockers more than receivers, which is exemplified by the fact that no tight end on a Mike Martz team has ever caught more than 38 passes. Olsen's role in the offense is still unclear, but using history as a guide, it appears unlikely that Olsen will be able to match his 2009 statistics.
With the Bears acquisition of Jay Cutler, Olsen heads into 2009 as one of the top sleepers at the position. Cutler helped make Tony Scheffler a productive tight end and has the arm to vault Olsen into the top five this season. Olsen has the trust of his offense around the goal line, getting 17 red-zone targets (tied for 5th) and 10 targets inside the 10-yard line (tied for 3rd). He also continued to improve as the season went on, scoring in three of the last four games. An exceptional athlete with size (6-5, 255), big things could be in store for the gifted route-runner in his third pro season.
The Bears' 2007 first-round pick shared duties
with Desmond Clark, limiting Olsen's (and
Clark's) value. The job-share was so even that the
two had the same number of targets (66). As a
result, Olsen was 21st among tight ends in fantasy
points scored, even though the Bears were
seventh in the league in using the tight end. Clark signed a two-year deal in the offseason, so there will still be some type of split in play, but expect to see Olsen, the more gifted route-runner and athlete, getting more targets.
Realizing Desmond Clark was not their long-term answer at tight end, the Bears used their first-round pick this year to draft Olsen, an extremely athletic TE out of Miami. Olsen is a big target who can stretch the field and also catch passes in coverage. While the team will expect him to contribute immediately, the fact that he'll likely split time with Clark this year limits his fantasy value. Expect Olsen to show flashes as a rookie while posting decent numbers.