Inside the Panthers

Panthers bring in athletic, pass-catching TE for visit – but not the one you think

Miami tight end David Njoku has visited the Carolina Panthers, who are in the market for a complement, and eventual replacement, for Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olsen.
Miami tight end David Njoku has visited the Carolina Panthers, who are in the market for a complement, and eventual replacement, for Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olsen. AP

The Carolina Panthers have an athletic, pass-catching tight end at Bank of America Stadium on Thursday – not named Greg Olsen.

But former Miami tight end David Njoku, who indicated on the Rich Eisen Show he was visiting the Panthers on Thursday, has ties to Olsen.

Both starred for the Hurricanes and spoke at the combine last month when Olsen was in Indianapolis breaking down the tight ends for NFL Network.

“He’s a great mentor of mine,” Njoku told Eisen on Wednesday. “He’s a great guy. I’ve known him for a while. He’s really good.”

Olsen could be mentoring his successor if the Panthers decide to draft the 6-4, 246-pound Njoku, who’s a first-round prospect.

In fact, draft analyst Lance Zierlein compared Njoku to Olsen in his combine bio for NFL.com, calling Njoku an “ascending pass catching talent with elite athleticism and enough fight in his run blocking to believe that he can be lined up anywhere on the field at any time.”

Several prognosticators in recent weeks have linked the Panthers to Alabama’s O.J. Howard, the top-rated tight end ahead of Njoku by most draft experts.

But Njoku, who’s only 20, is an intriguing prospect for a Panthers team that wants to evolve its offense to take some of the hits off quarterback Cam Newton.

Njoku, who is of Nigerian descent, was a receiver and national high jump champion at his New Jersey high school who started only nine games in two seasons at Miami. He pulled down 21 passes for 362 yards and a TD last season as a redshirt sophomore while leading the Hurricanes with an average of 17.2 yards per catch.

And the fact that the Panthers used one of their 30 pre-draft visits on Njoku – and are not known to have done so yet for Howard – makes Njoku someone to watch closely over the next month.

Joseph Person: 704-358-5123, @josephperson

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