The New England Patriots, who are entering the final days of their organized team activities, currently have 89 players on their active roster. However, only 53 of them will be able to survive the cutdowns on August 31 and ultimately make the team. Over the course of the summer, we will take a look at the players fighting for those spots to find out who has the best chances of helping the Patriots defend their Super Bowl title.
Today, the series continues with one of New England’s undrafted rookie additions.
Name: Gunner Olszewski
Position: Wide receiver
Jersey number: TBD (offseason #72)
Opening day age: 22
Size: 6’0, 170 lbs.
2018 review: Gunner Olszewski was one of the most impressive players in the entire Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference during his 2018 senior season. Not only was the Bemidji State product a standout on special teams, most notably for returning punts and kickoffs, he also earned player of the year recognition from the division-II conference — for his performance as a cornerback.
Olszewski, who was also a member of Bemidji State’s baseball team, appeared in nine of the school’s eleven games in 2018. On defense, he finished the year with 63 tackles, 3 interceptions and an additional 4 pass breakups. In the kicking game, he was equally productive: as a punt returner, Olszewski averaged an impressive 16.8 yards on his 16 runbacks, a number that went up to 46.3 on kickoffs — on only three returns, though.
Despite his accolades and consistently strong performances, Olszewski entered the draft as little more than a project-type player. Seeing him go unselected was therefore the expected outcome; as was him not generating much of a market early on in free agency.
2019 preview: Olszewski was invited to two rookie minicamps after the draft: the Minnesota Vikings and the Patriots took a closer look at him, with the latter signing him in late May. This gives the rookie a chance to compete for a role on the team, albeit in a different role. After working him out, the Patriots and new receivers coach Joe Judge opted to move the 22-year-old to the offensive side of the ball.
There, Olszewski will compete on a crowded but wide open wide receiver depth chart: only two of a likely five spots appear to be definitively occupied at the moment (by Julian Edelman and N’Keal Harry), which leaves plenty of space for players to make an impact. And despite his transition, Olszewski appears to have as good a chance as any wideout to make the final cut and earn a spot on the roster or, more likely, practice squad.
After all, he offers unique positional versatility and a knowledge of playing defensive back that should help him in attacking them from the wide receiver spot. Whether or not this will be enough to earn a spot on New England’s pay roll remains to be seen — Olszewski needs to look the part in training camp and preseason as well — but if there is one team known for taking chances on unheralded prospects, it is the Patriots.
Seeing Olszewski end up on New England’s scout team this year to further be developed over the course of the season would therefore not be a surprise.