Fantasy Football: Greg Olsen the steal of the tight end class

      August 21, 2012 @ 15:53:55 PDT

Carolina Panthers Greg Olsen
More prep time, more domination

Looks like Ron Rivera has spilled my secret.

Greg Olsen will be this year's incarnation of Rob Gronkowski/Jimmy Graham.

Think about it.

Olsen (6-foot-5, 255 pounds) has similar physical gifts to Gronk (6-foot-6, 265) and Graham (6-foot-7, 265). Those two were middle-rounds grabs last year; Olsen is falling off boards in the final round or two ... that is, when drafters actually remember he exists. Olsen boasts ample more experience than both of last year's studs did heading in.

Carolina doesn't have the depth of weapons in the aerial game that New England or New Orleans possess, either, so Olsen has, on paper, a grand opportunity to separate himself.

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.)

Now, Chud has had a full camp to mold Olsen. Jeremy Shockey is unlikely to return, and Olsen's horrid blocking skills means he won't be trusted to do so often, instead being sent out to snare pigskin. And heck, if he improves (he's a vet, after all), that means more playing time.

Olsen was on his way to breaking out after a 60-612-8 2009 campaign, but Mike Martz's arrival with the Chicago Bears the next season nullified his growth. The "Greatest Show on Turf" architect can't tell a tight end from his rear end.

Carolina's crowded backfield of goal line options slightly hinders some of the optimism I hold for the former Bears prodigy, and Brandon LaFell could emerge, as well. But how effective will Steve Smith play at age 33 in gaining separation on deep plays? Though Newton has the cannon to wreak havoc that way again, last year was just too good to be true for this connection.

Newton could just as easily transfer some of Smith's targets to another big-play body that could unleash over the middle and, chiefly, inside the 20. Chudzinski knows the vulnerabilities a properly deployed TE can find and create against opposing defenses.

A talented big-bodied receiver ... in a picture-perfect system for his position ... going under fantasy football radars ... hmm, sounds familiar.

I project something around 70 catches, 950 yards and 9 touchdowns.

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About Tim Heaney

Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum, who competes in the prestigious LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.

He appears frequently, including every Sunday, on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, as well as every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.

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