The New Orleans Saints traded up in the 2022 NFL Draft to select Chris Olave with the 11th overall pick. At the time, there was uncertainty regarding Michael Thomas’ injury situation, and the team had not yet signed former Miami Dolphin and Cleveland Brown, Jarvis Landry. In the months since, Thomas has made great strides in his recovery, and Juice is now gainfully employed in his home state. Sucks to be Olave, right? Well... don’t be so sure.
I am actually of the opinion that the rookie wide receiver is in a much better situation than he was in April. This pertains more to real life than it does fantasy football, but Olave should be considered an asset in both. He will have the opportunity to learn from two established veterans in Thomas and Landry — each of whom were once considered among the NFL’s elite.
In Thomas’ case, many (including myself) would still put him in that category. As for Landry, he is just 29 years old – and three years removed from an 83 catch, 1,174 yard season – so it would not be wise to write him off as an impactful player. Olave will be able to soak up plenty of knowledge, and learn the skills of his trade from two absolute technicians.
Olave and Thomas share more than a few things in common, so I would expect the rookie to get even more help and advice from his older Buckeye brethren. Both went to high school in California, ended up in Columbus, got drafted by the Saints, and so on. However, Thomas is not the only other Buckeye in New Orleans. The two receivers are joined by Marshon Lattimore, Bradley Roby, Nick Vannett, and Pete Werner — creating Ohio State South or the OSU Louisiana campus. With the extra benefit of familiarity, Olave should feel more comfortable than other rookies, and adapty quickly to life in the NFL. But enough about life, let’s talk fantasy football.
Prior to Landry’s signing, I would have been happy to have Olave as a third or fourth receiver and/or a potential starter at the flex position. Starting WR (assuming two in traditional leagues) are among the most valuable fantasy currency one can have, and rolling the dice on a rookie – as a weekly starter – is typically not a gamble I am willing to take. With Landry in the fold? Oddly, nothing changes. I believe that all the receiving options in New Orleans will complement each other quite well, and the Saints did not trade precious draft capital to select Olave and park him on the bench. Three receiver sets are more common than any other offensive look nowadays, so I envision the rookie spending plenty of time on the field.
Olave will undoubtedly be required to earn and fight for touches. In addition to Thomas and Landry at WR, the Saints have one of the best dual-threat running backs in the NFL. Prior to 2021, Alvin Kamara averaged 80+ receptions per season out of the backfield. Landry averaged roughly the same number during his first seven years in the league, and Thomas set an NFL record when last healthy. A peak season from all three combined would amount to roughly 270 catches or 90 per.
So why would I possibly expect Olave to carve out a role and become any sort of fantasy asset? I could give you a dozen reasons. But aside from the fact that I am an Ohio State homer, there are two very important factors that give me confidence in his value.
Jameis Winston's penchant for the deep ball could propel Saints rookie Chris Olave to early-season fantasy relevance.@LordDontLose dissects the 2022 season for New Orleans: https://t.co/ZIXYT1QRJy pic.twitter.com/fraGsVWGfC— NBC Sports EDGE (@NBCSportsEdge) July 14, 2022
First and foremost, Thomas/Landry/Kamara is not the trio it once was. While all are supremely talented players, each is coming off a down year or multiple seasons marred by injury. Thomas set his NFL record in 2019, and has barely played since. Landry was great the same year, but has only topped 1,000 yards once since 2016. And Kamara’s stats dropped across the board in 2021. He could also face discipline from the league for an off-field incident in Las Vegas. Olave was brought in – at the very least – to supplement Thomas and Kamara. Landry’s presence should not alter the team’s plans.
So the Saints have weapons, but those weapons might not be as potent as they once were. Additionally, the quarterback play is not what it once was. I actually like Jameis Winston as a fantasy QB, but he is not Drew Brees — for a number of reasons. However, one of the things that will work in Olave and other skill players’ favor is that Winston should take chances and throw deep. Brees was fairly risk-averse, and loved to hit Thomas and Kamara underneath.
When Winston was last a consistent starter with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he was more than willing to let Mike Evans win jump balls — while also keeping Chris Godwin statistically fed. Winston can put up stats, and he is not tied at the hip to Thomas in a way that Brees was. Hell, he could develop greater chemistry with Olave than any other receiver on the team.
As for the all-time receiving TD leader at Ohio State, he possesses all the tools to be successful in the NFL. Olave had arguably the best footwork and separation skills of any receiver in the 2021 draft. He showed off surprisingly high-end speed, and while drops are bound to happen with any wideout, he kept them to a minimum. We have seen more and more rookies hit the ground running as fantasy football studs, and I expect Olave to find some success. I would target him as a rotational WR or flex option, but limit your expectations for fantasy production. He was never the highest volume guy at OSU, and Thomas/Landry/Kamara will eat into his opportunities in some way, shape, or form.
Olave’s current ADP is right around No. 100, and he is projected as a top-40 to top-50 player at his position. That ADP sounds a little low to me, but I think his value takes a hit in PPR formats. If pick 100 falls in, say, the 10th round of your draft, I would still suggest pouncing on Olave a round or two early. His nose for the endzone makes him a solid wildcard, and even if he is considered a third option on his own team, the talent is impossible to ignore. Pick up the OSU record-breaker with confidence, and watch what he and his fellow Buckeyes can do in The Big Easy.