Stop me if you’ve heard this before… Greg Olsen hurt his foot on Sunday. It’s a re-fracture of his right foot, the same one that gave him so much trouble last season, and although he’ll remain on the 53-man roster and thinks avoiding surgery is possible, he’ll be out for at least a couple months. In his place steps Ian Thomas, a rookie 4th-rounder out of Indiana who had previously been deemed the “biggest surprise” of Panthers training camp.
Thomas played just 2 seasons at Indiana after attending 2 years of community college, and after serving as primarily a blocking TE his junior year, he hauled in 25 passes for 376 yards and 5 TDs in his senior season. His stock rose significantly after Senior Bowl practices and an impressive showing at the combine, and he was already a candidate to possibly steal some targets from Olsen at some point this season. Now, with Olsen out indefinitely, he’s primed to assume the top role.
Panthers beat writers were gushing about Thomas in camp, praising his ability to consistently find open lanes in the secondary and pull down intermediate-length passes. He’s about the same size as Olsen at 6’4″ and 250 pounds, and head coach Ron Rivera said Tuesday that Thomas is “pretty well-prepared” to replace Olsen while he recovers. Scouts all seem to agree that Thomas is raw and definitely a work-in-progress, but the strength and the talent are there, and now the opportunity is there, too. Thomas is currently owned in just 4% of Yahoo leagues, and especially if you lost Olsen or Delanie Walker this week, could be a perfectly viable stash option at the increasingly thin tight end position.