How much stress does a player like NOL put on opposing defenses? What kind of production do you see from him this year?
As a refresher, here's what O'Leary did in 2013.
Was one of three finalists for the John Mackey Award, given to the nation's top tight end...had 33 receptions for 557 yards and seven touchdowns...averaged 16.9 yards per catch - a mark that led all tight ends in the nation...his seven scores tied for the second-most by a tight end, nationally...27 of 33 receptions went for a touchdown or a first down...the three-year starter is already the FSU career record-holder for touchdown catches by a tight end (11)...also a punishing blocker and runner...his blocking and receiving talents helped the Noles set FSU and ACC records for single-season total offense (7,267 yards), points per game (51.6) and yards per play (7.67) and the national record for points (723)...the Noles led the country with 94 touchdowns...set Florida State records for a tight end with 161 receiving yards and a 94-yard reception in the Noles' 51-14 victory at then-No. 3 Clemson...opened the season by scoring three touchdowns at Pitt...added two receiving touchdowns against Maryland...had scoring receptions against NC State and Syracuse...caught three balls for 52 yards at Florida and hauled in three passes for 48 yards versus Duke in the ACC Championship Game...his 66 receptions and 973 yards for his career both rank second for tight ends in Seminole history behind Gary Parris (1970-72), who had 82 receptions and 1,125 yards.
ricobert1: We've made jokes in the past about Jimbo's Jumbo Pro-Spread. But NOL kinda fits this to a T. No, he's not 6'6 265, but he's tough in the trenches and versatile against coverage. His hands (78.6% catch rate) make up for a lack of elite speed, and Travis Blanks is still wondering what the license plate read on the truck that hit him.
It's clear that Jameis likes his TE. O'Leary's production is highly tied to the amount of intermediate routes Jimbo and Jameis *don't* audible out of. Jimbo's passing attack forces defenders to make quick coverage decisions by giving receivers the option to respond to coverages, and even the right decision by a defender leaves green for an opposing receiver in which to get the ball.
I don't see any drop-off in catch rate for O'Leary as he returns as one of Jameis' favorite targets, though perhaps the number of times he's targeted could drop as I expect FSU to run it more. Regardless, he has enough speed to embarrass LBs and enough size to embarrass DBs.
Florida State season preview
Florida State season preview
Bud Elliott: I see an uptick in O'Leary's overall production, despite more focusing being on him, due to an increase in his targets -- Assuming he stays healthy. I expect Florida State to run the football more this year, which likely means fewer four-wide sets, ensuring that O'Leary is on the field even more. He's also one of the primary targets off of play action, and he looks to be in great physical shape. I don't believe O'Leary has the measurables to be picked in the first round, as some early mock drafts have projected, but he's one heck of a college player. He should become FSU's all-time tight end leader in receptions, yards and touchdowns (already holds this last one).
I'll also note that Florida State's history of tight end success in the decade before O'Leary came along was pretty abysmal, and it was hurting the Seminoles in recruiting. O'Leary's success changed that.
pbysh: NOL will be one of the primary beneficiaries of the attention Rashad should get this year. That's not to say teams don't know about him, but he should find himself open quite a bit, and has proven that he is an absolute matchup nightmare for opposing teams. His numbers were a bit inflated last year by the Pitt and Clemson games but I think he should be able to get there again this year with ease.
Onebarrelrum: Nick will still be Nick, but maybe even better. He made big strides last year with ball security and knowing what to do with the ball after catching it. No more Shaw or Benjamin, and we know Winston has said he loves throwing it to O'Leary. He'll surpass his productivity from last year. Nick won't outrun any DBs but he will sure test LBs in space. Having a guy that can block as well as he can AND beat LBs receiving really is an undervalued part of this offense.