Greg Olsen Keeps Producing at a Historic Rate

Olsen is a classic, late-blooming tight end, but his production is far from typical.

Traditionally, tight ends in the NFL take a while to develop.

In fact, in NFL history, only one tight end has ever had 1,000 receiving yards as a rookie.

Back before the merger, Hall-of-Famer Mike Ditka accomplished this feat in 1961 when he had 1,076 receiving yards for the Chicago Bears in only 14 games.

Since the merger in 1970, no rookie tight end has eclipsed even 900 yards. In that stretch, Jeremy Shockey leads the way with 894 receiving yards in his rookie season after leaving the Miami Hurricanes. Only two others, like Shockey, have also eclipsed the 800-receiving-yard mark since the merger.

Fellow former Bear and Hurricanes tight end Greg Olsen did not have a rookie season like the aforementioned Ditka and Shockey. He only managed to haul in 391 receiving yards in his first year as a pro with the Bears.

Olsen remained with the Bears for only four years and only once recorded 100 targets, 60 receptions, and 600 yards in a season with them.

Since then, he has moved on to the Carolina Panthers and never looked back, so let's look at just how great his career has become since moving to the Panthers.

Late-Career Success

Since Olsen arrived in Carolina for his fifth year as a pro in 2011, he has only had one season with fewer than 100 targets, 60 receptions, and 600 yards in a season, his first with the team.

Starting in his second year with Carolina, Olsen has never dropped below any of those numbers again while always producing at least 800 receiving yards each season.

Even more impressively, Olsen has produced three years in a row with at least 1,000 yards. No other tight end in NFL history has ever accomplished this feat.

As his career progression shows, Olsen has been a steady force while playing for the Panthers.

Year Team Targets Receptions Yards TD
2007 CHI 66 39 391 2
2008 CHI 82 54 574 5
2009 CHI 108 60 612 8
2010 CHI 70 41 404 5
2011 CAR 89 45 540 5
2012 CAR 104 69 843 5
2013 CAR 111 73 816 6
2014 CAR 123 84 1008 6
2015 CAR 124 77 1104 7
2016 CAR 129 80 1073 3
Career 1006 622 7365 52

His time with the Panthers has vaulted him into some high standings among tight ends in NFL history: 6th in receptions, 7th in yards, and 11th in touchdowns.

Digging deeper, we can see just how much value he adds, and how great he has been using our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric, which indicates how many points he has added to his offense's expected total.

YearTeamReception NEPReception NEP/
Success Rate

Much like his traditional statistics, Olsen's advanced analytics show constant progress throughout his career. Using our metrics, Olsen has just had his best year, as he continues to improve constantly.

For the year, Olsen ranked 2nd in targets, 4th in receptions, 2nd in yards, and tied for 20th in touchdowns among all tight ends. Among the 32 tight ends with at least 50 targets, Olsen ranked second in Reception NEP, eighth in Reception NEP per target, and first in Reception Success Rate.

Top of the Class?

With his impressive prime years in Carolina, Olsen deserves to be looked at with high regard next to other high-volume tight ends in recent seasons. Since 2007, 290 tight ends have seen at least 50 targets in a given season, and Olsen is near the top of the list in a few metrics.

Tight Ends With 50-Plus Targets Reception NEP Rec NEP/
Success Rate
Olsen's Career 62.67 0.61 85.29%
Olsen's Carolina 75.96 0.66 88.25%
Olsen's 2016 94.13 0.73 93.75%
TE Average 2007-2016 51.81 0.62 83.12%
TE Average 2011-2016 53.14 0.62 83.21%
TE Average 2016 49.86 0.62 81.59%

Olsen's 2016 season ranks 15th in Reception NEP, and his 2015 season ranks 18th in Reception NEP among the 290 tight end seasons.

Olsen's 2016 season ranks 65th in Reception NEP per target, and his 2015 season ranks 51st in this category. His 2016 season ranks 10th in Reception Success Rate, and his 2014 season ranks 25th.

With plenty of volume coming his way, Olsen's analytics show just like his traditional statistics. Olsen constantly improves year-to-year even at this point in his career and performs well above average based on our analytics.

Having never missed a game in his now 10-year NFL career, it is only right to expect Olsen to extend his streak and to record four straight 1,000-yard seasons. With two more years on his current contract, it is fair to wonder just how high he will end up on the record boards at the tight end position when he retires.