Each and every year Ohio State is one of the leaders in total players drafted to the NFL. In this series, I am going to be profiling the former Ohio State Buckeyes who have declared for the NFL Draft.
Chris Olave came on to the scene for the Buckeyes in the biggest moments of his freshman year. Coming in as a three-star recruit from California, not much was thought of Olave when he arrived on campus, but he made a name for himself early. In the game against Michigan that season, he scored two touchdowns and blocked a punt, signaling the start to his career as a big moment player.
After becoming a staple in the downfield offensive attack over the next two seasons, he announced his decision to return to Ohio State. The Buckeye receiver went on to break the program’s receiving touchdown record while being the heartbeat of the most elite receiver room in the country. Olave is bringing incredible ball tracking, competitiveness, and an innate ability to create seperation to the NFL.
Olave lacks the dominant physical traits of a true NFL No. 1, but Olave can become an elite secondary option in a league with a lot of teams looking to fill out their receiver rooms.
Chris Olave Draft Round Projection: Late First Round Pick, Early Second Round Pick
In Brian Hartline’s receiver school, Chris Olave blossomed into an extremely well-rounded receiver. Olave developed in all facets, building on his deep threat ability by adding great technique in route running and showing he can make the tough, contested catches. With a four year long highlight tape, there is a lot of evidence of the receiver he is, and NFL teams will find value in his innate ability to make big plays.
The difference between Olave and his running mate Garrett Wilson is the ability to create after the catch. Olave improved in this department, but most of his notable plays outside of a few examples showed that Olave doesn’t create many yards after catch. This is not a deal breaker, but combine that with a smaller frame, and that is why Olave is a fringe first round pick.
The first trait we’re going to highlight is Olave’s ability to create separation. In the clip below, Ohio State is inside the five-yard line, which means Olave is working in a phone booth. In the tight areas on the field like this, it is incredibly challenging to create separation, but we get to see Olave create a ton of space in a small area. This route concept was a staple when Olave was catching passes from Justin Fields, and in this case C.J. Stroud.
Olave releases off the line and the defensive back plays without getting any hands on Olave. Olave sells the fade – his shoulders and body are facing Stroud after the release – and once the defensive back turns his head, he breaks out towards the sideline. Olave uses changing tempo to get the defender off balance, and then makes an easy catch for a touchdown.
Deep Ball Tracking
This skill is pretty self-explanatory, and rather than look at one of his patented deep post routes, we are going to look at his adjustment on this fade route against Michigan State. Olave runs a standard “Go” route. He has single coverage against him, making the decision for Stroud easy. Olave runs this route to perfection, he attacks the defenders cushion – the depth the defender gives the receiver – then stacks him to maintain his landmark of the bottom of the numbers.
By keeping his landmark, this gives Stroud a much larger area to throw the football, because now Stroud has from the bottom of the numbers to the sideline. Stroud throws this ball pretty far outside, but Olave adjusts to the ball in incredible fashion. Olave makes an NFL catch getting both feet down, but the way he contorts his body and catches the ball can’t be taught.
In the initial breakdown, we talked about Olave’s smaller frame. The reason competitiveness is an important trait is because that is what closes the gap. Olave will never be built like Treylon Burks, but that doesn’t mean he can’t make the same plays Burks does at times.
In the clip below, Ohio State needs a huge play from the offense against Michigan. Olave gets one-on-one coverage against Michigan’s cornerback and does not create much separation. Stroud leaves the ball inside, meaning this is going to be a contested catch. Olave climbs the ladder, showing the athleticism not many people talk about, and takes the ball away from the defender. This is a play where one player is winning and the other is losing — Olave rarely loses in these situations.
Scheme and Team Fits
Chris Olave was the No. 1 receiver for three years at Ohio State. That doesn’t happen without a diverse skill set. Much like our discussion surrounding Garrett Wilson, there isn’t one offense that he would thrive in, but there are some places where he would excel. Olave can come in and be a complimentary deep threat to an already established top receiver, or he can come in and be a high-volume security blanket to a team that has established downfield threats. This opens up a lot of doors for potential draft destinations, but I’ve narrowed it down to the most likely teams.
Las Vegas Raiders (Rd. 1 Pick 22): The Las Vegas Raiders spent draft capital on a wide receiver in the prior draft, but are now in need of another wide receiver. With Darren Waller established as the No. 1 pass-catching target and the emergence of Hunter Renfrow in the slot, the Raiders could then fill out their pass catchers with Olave, giving them a loaded and balanced receiving room.
Green Bay Packers (Rd. 1 Pick 28): Aaron Rodgers was not happy when the Packers chose to draft Jordan Love over offensive help. In a receiving room that lacks a definitive No. 2 next to Davante Adams, Olave could be the pick that keeps Rodgers in Green Bay. Olave would bring a great intermediate level threat to compliment the more vertically inclined Allen Lazard and Marquez Valdes-Scantling types in the room.
Kansas City Chiefs (Rd. 1 Pick 29): Who needs more weapons? Probably not the Chiefs who can spend this pick on offensive line help, but outside of Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce, Kansas CIty doesn’t have a consistent offensive threat. Olave would thrive in the wide open passing attack under Andy Reid and Eric Bienemy, and would give them a consistent pass catching threat.
Detroit Lions (Rd. 2 Pick 34): The team that needs the most help at this position is the Detroit Lions. They can’t afford to use their first round pick on this help, but they can hope that Olave falls past the first round. After the emergence of Amon Ra St. Brown down the stretch, they do not need the high volume security blanket. This would allow for Olave to come in and be the timely big play guy that every team wants. If the Lions give Jared Goff another opportunity, they could absolutely help him out by drafting Chris Olave.
Brandin Cooks (Houston Texans): Cooks has been an extremely consistent receiver who does a little bit of everything well. The two things Cooks thrives in doing are creating separation in his routes and stretching the field vertically. With inconsistencies in the types of people he’s had at the QB position in his career, he has been a security blanket for each of them.
Robert Woods (Los Angeles Rams): Woods doesn’t have many “wow” traits, but when he was drafted to the Rams they needed a consistent reliable target. Woods is great route runner and leader in the Rams locker room. As a regular fringe 1000-yard receiver, he has provided a reliable target to the many Rams quarterbacks over the his career. Olave can do everything Woods does, and can provide immediate stability to a room in need of it.
Kenny Stills (New Orleans Saints): Stills was an Oklahoma product who has had an up and down career. Stills has a well-rounded skill set, but his trademark ability is how he takes the top off of defense, which Olave is capable of as well. With an up and down career, Stills’ skill set coming out was similar to Olave’s, so hopefully Olave can find the right fit early.
In the name of fairness, here are some other evaluations from “NFL Draft Experts”:
Sam Monson (PFF): In Monson’s most recent mock draft he has Olave going No. 22 overall to the Las Vegas Raiders. When it comes to reasoning, replacing Henry Ruggs III is a major part, and he had this to say as well, “[Olave] has smooth route-running skills, and there is talk that he will record a faster 40-yard dash time than many expect. Olave generated an impressive 2.8 yards per route run over his entire college career.”
Luke Easterling (USA Today): In his mock draft, Olave is the heir apparent to Davante Adams, “Olave is as polished and pro-ready as any prospect in this draft, at any position, and would make an instant impact regardless of who is throwing him the ball.”
Josh Edwards (CBS Sports): Edwards has Olave heading up to Detroit, “The Lions need a No. 1 wide receiver rather than a slot, which is where Amon-Ra St. Brown was really impressive this season. I was concerned only slot options would be on the board, but Olave makes their decision easy.”
The Ohio State fan favorite will be drafted early, and a solid NFL Combine performance can assure that. After coming back for his senior season, Olave developed into an even more dangerous target who refined his game and showed why he can be much more than a deep threat.
Olave shows great discipline in the red zone, a willingness to make the tough catches in traffic, and has an incredible win rate against one-on-one coverage. The two question marks are his size and his ability to play against more physical corners. With his competitiveness and fundamentals, he has shown that despite not having ideal size, he can be a true No. 1 receiver for a team.
The best fit for Olave is a team where he can be complimented by a slot receiver or a high volume pass catcher. This would allow for him to flourish using the best parts of his polished skill set. Expect his name to be called late night one or early night two. Either way, a team is getting a steal wherever they end up taking him.