The 2020 NFL Draft saw six wide receivers taken in the first round, with 35 players at the position selected over the three days. In the wake of such a historically successful class, it almost seems ludicrous to suggest that the 2021 NFL Draft class has even more depth of talent. Ohio State wide receiver Chris Olave is rapidly emerging as not only a top prospect in a deep class but potentially one of the best Buckeyes wide receivers of all time.
The list of Ohio State wide receiver alumni reads like a who’s who of great college football receivers. Names like David Boston, Joey Galloway, Brian Stablein, and Cris Carter are etched in the Buckeyes record books alongside more recent success stories such as Santonio Holmes, Devin Smith, Ted Ginn Jr., and Michael Thomas. They have consistently produced high caliber wide receivers that have gone on to succeed on the biggest stage.
After a standout sophomore season, Olave is set to join that list of Buckeyes wide receivers in 2020, increasing his 2021 NFL Draft stock in the process.
High school record-setter to brilliance at the Buckeyes for Olave
To begin to understand what a special talent Olave is, you have to go back to his high school career. As a three-sport athlete, he played baseball and was a track star, running a 10.8-second 100-meter sprint and posting impressive long jump figures.
Despite success on the track, Olave put his speed and explosiveness to devastating use on the football field. During his senior season at Mission Hills High School, he set a San Diego section record with 1764 receiving yards and 26 touchdowns. He also showcased an ability to perform in a big game environment, with 150 yards and a touchdown in the Open Division Championship Game, something that would help him break out at Ohio State just one year later.
Coming out of San Marcos, California, as a three-star wide receiver, Olave received multiple offers from all over the nation, including Tennessee, USC, and Michigan, but after a visit from head coach Ryan Day, he would commit to Ohio State.
Behind Parris Campbell, Terry McLaurin, and K.J. Hill in the Buckeyes wide receiver room, Olave would have a quiet start to his freshman season but exploded into life when it mattered most. The big game mentality which had served him so well in high school saw him produce a breakout performance against Michigan in one of the most high-profile rivalries in all of sport.
Olave blocked a punt and snagged two touchdowns, the first of many multiple touchdown games to come, as the Buckeyes routed the fourth-ranked Wolverines 62-39. He followed that up with a career-high 79 yards and a TD as Ohio State secured the BIG Ten Championship over Northwestern.
The finale of his freshman season set up his standout sophomore campaign. In 2019, he led all Buckeyes wide receivers in receiving yards and touchdowns, ahead of the more experienced Hill, Austin Mack, and Binjimen Victor.
Olave had multiple touchdown games came against Miami (OH), Northwestern, and Wisconsin and a career-high 139 receiving yards against Rutgers. He was again a big game threat with 94 yards in the BIG Ten Championship Game against Wisconsin, and he secured a touchdown in the Buckeyes loss to Clemson in the College Football Playoffs.
With 12 touchdowns in 2019, Olave put himself in the Buckeyes wide receiver record book, tied for fourth with Devin Smith and Parris Campbell for the single-season touchdown record.
Olave’s sophomore season compares extremely favorably to the great Buckeyes wide receivers. Of the players mentioned earlier, only Smith had more average yards per catch than Olave’s 17.5 YPC in 2019. Only Carter and Boston had more receiving yards than Olave’s 840 yards, and only Boston had more than his sophomore touchdown total.
One of the nation’s top returning wide receivers
2020 promises to be an even better season for Olave.
He has the size and physicality to win contested catches and provide a redzone threat. He has the speed and route-running ability to get open downfield. Combine that with incredible ball skills, and he has all the attributes required to lead the Buckeyes wide receivers as a true WR1.
Chris Olave is one one of the best route runners in college football. Pure, fluid, explosive – the true sophomore has it all.
Wisconsin has to commit multiple defensive backs to stopping his vertical presence. pic.twitter.com/fAC0yhH56q
— Brad Kelly (@BradKelly17) December 6, 2019
Olave will also benefit from consistency at the quarterback position in 2020.
The consensus top receivers for the 2021 NFL Draft, such as Jaylen Waddle, DeVonta Smith, and Ja’Marr Chase, face unknown quarterback situations at Alabama and LSU after Tua Tagovailoa and Joe Burrow departed for the NFL.
The Buckeyes return Justin Fields in 2020, who is an early favorite for the Heisman Trophy. Continuity at the most important position in sport cannot be underestimated, and Fields and Olave clearly built up a successful relationship in 2019.
After a crucial miscommunication in the playoff defeat to Clemson, which Olave took ownership of and showed maturity beyond his years, the duo will be motivated to bounce back and drive Ohio State to the National Championship.
There is every reason to believe that Olave can challenge to lead the nation in receiving yards in 2020. If he does, he could become the first Buckeyes wide receiver to be taken in the first round of the NFL Draft since the Miami Dolphins took Ginn Jr. with the ninth pick in the 2007 NFL Draft.
That would secure his place as one of the greatest Buckeyes wide receivers of all-time.