Despite a reputation for producing wide receiver talent for the NFL, Ohio State hasn’t had a first-round receiver since Ted Ginn in 2007. Although he garnered early-round potential in this year’s class, Chris Olave spurned the NFL Draft for his senior season with the Buckeyes. Will another season catapult the Ohio State WR into the first round? Could he be the best receiver in the 2022 NFL Draft?
Chris Olave NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Wide Receiver
- School: Ohio State
- Current Year: Senior
- Height: 6’1″
- Weight: 189 pounds
Chris Olave Scouting Report
Does Ohio State WR Olave have the skill set to be a first-round selection in the 2022 NFL Draft? Although there are some areas for improvement and growth within his game, the early answer from Olave’s scouting report would be yes. Let’s start by looking at where he excels before examining how he can improve his draft stock during the 2021 college football season.
One of Olave’s best attributes is his athleticism. We can break this down into several critical areas, starting with speed. A former high school sprinter, Olave exhibits excellent play speed. It’s unlikely that he will be the fastest receiver at the NFL Combine, but he has the play speed to cause problems for defensive backs.
More impressive than his overall speed is his burst. Olave demonstrates a stellar ability to blast past defensive backs at the line of scrimmage. Using a combination of his explosion, play speed, and incredible fluidity of movement, Olave creates separation. His footwork at the line of scrimmage is impressive, allowing him to gain an immediate advantage, which he solidifies with extraordinary route-running prowess.
Finally, Olave showcases impressive football intelligence and spatial awareness. He does a superb job of finding soft spots in opposing defenses. Furthermore, his awareness helps him complete catches in tight situations while remaining in bounds. He has been used in multiple alignments during his Ohio State career. That versatility should only enhance Olave’s NFL Draft stock.
Areas for improvement
At 6’1″ and 189 pounds, Olave’s game lacks physicality that could present problems for his NFL Draft stock. He doesn’t demonstrate a physicality in downfield blocking. Although that might not sound like a massive problem, it can separate a good receiver from a great one, and that could prove to be a difference-maker for an NFL team on draft night.
His lack of physicality also shows in contested-catch situations. There are examples of him winning on occasion, but he needs to show improvement in that area of his game this season.
Finally, while Olave presents a dangerous downfield option, he isn’t much of a threat to make yardage after the catch. For a player with excellent athletic ability, he needs to prove he can make yardage for himself in 2021.
Chris Olave’s Player Profile
Although Olave heads into his senior season as one of the top wide receivers in the 2022 NFL Draft class, he hasn’t always commanded such national recognition. Having spent his early high school career at Eastlake High School, Olave was forced to sit out his junior season for Mission Hills under transfer regulations following a family move to California. As a result, he only earned a three-star rating from 247 Sports.
Furthermore, he was only ranked as the 68th best receiver in the class and the 399th player in the nation.
While he couldn’t suit up for the football team as a junior, Olave performed on the track and the court. Displaying his speed and overall athletic prowess early on, Olave set a 10.8-second 100-meter time while leaping to an impressive 23’6″ in the long jump. He also excelled at basketball, but coaches described it as his third-best sport.
Once Olave made it onto the football field as a senior at Mission Hills, it became dramatically apparent as to which was his best sport. The explosive wide receiver led the team to an undefeated regular season. In the process, Olave set a San Diego section record of 1,764 receiving yards and 26 touchdowns. Flashing a penchant for the big game, Olave returned a punt for a 60-yard touchdown in the quarterfinal before securing 150 yards and a score in the championship game.
Senior high school season success leads to significant interest
Olave’s performances in his senior season attracted considerable interest from college football programs. He held offers from 20 schools before narrowing it down to a final four of Ohio State, UCLA, USC, Utah. The proximity of UCLA, combined with the fact that Ohio State already secured multiple wide receiver commitments in the class, seemed to be steering him towards the Bruins.
However, Olave had other ideas: “I just felt Ohio State was right. All signs pointed to Ohio State.”
As a further demonstration of the perceived destiny of his college football direction, Olave later recalled a story of a car journey taken with his father before his announcement: “I looked up and the car in front of us had an Ohio State licence plate rim. It was just another sign pointing me to Ohio State.”
Olave’s career at Ohio State
Olave landed in a packed receiving room at Ohio State. The 2018 Buckeyes boasted future NFL talents such as Parris Campbell and Terry McLaurin. As a result, Olave’s early impact was limited to special teams and minimal receptions. Yet, the quiet young man from Mission Hills would soon cause a big noise.
His appetite for the big game first unveiled in high school was about to be demonstrated on the national stage.
Late in the season, in one of the greatest rivalry games in all of sports, Olave carved his name onto the hearts of Buckeyes fans everywhere. Utilizing his special-teams experience, he blocked a Michigan punt that resulted in a score for Ohio State. Additionally, he took his 2 receptions for 48 yards and 2 touchdowns as the Buckeyes obliterated the fourth-ranked Wolverines, 62-39.
With McLaurin and Campbell departed for the NFL Draft, Olave emerged as the leader of the wide receiver room
In the 2019 season, Olave led the Buckeyes with 849 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns. He displayed his big-play ability with 17.3 yards per catch. Olave recorded multiple games with 2 touchdowns and set a career-high 139 receiving yards off just 4 receptions against Rutgers. His performances, which included another blocked punt, earned him third-team All-Big Ten honors.
Despite the highs of the 2019 season, Olave’s involvement in a busted play that cost Ohio State a chance of reaching the national championship left a bitter taste in his mouth. The elite wideout was determined to come back and prove that he was one of the best receivers in the game. He entered the year on the watchlist for the Biletnikoff Award and was considered one of the best draft-eligible pass catchers.
Olave once again led the Buckeyes’ receiver room in 2020. In one of the most disrupted seasons in college football history, the Ohio State WR racked up 729 receiving yards and 7 touchdowns. Although statistically down compared to 2019, he was second in the Big Ten in receiving yards and third in touchdowns. Olave also equaled his career-high single-game receiving yards while securing over 100 yards in five different games.
A chance for redemption and returning for one last season before heading to the NFL Draft
Following the conclusion of the regular season, Olave earned first-team All-Big Ten recognition from the conference’s coaches. Still, a bigger prize loomed on the horizon. Just one year removed from the disappointment of the playoff defeat to Clemson, a rematch presented the opportunity for redemption.
This time, Olave shined, racking up 132 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns as the Buckeyes advanced to the title game.
Ultimately, Ohio State fell to Alabama in what was presumed to be Olave’s last game before heading to the NFL Draft. However, despite garnering potential first-round consideration early in the process, he opted to return for his senior season. In doing so, Olave put himself near the top of the 2022 NFL Draft receiver class.
Can he become the first Ohio State WR selected in the first round since 2007? It’s still early, but there’s every chance he’s one of the first receivers off the board next year.
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Oliver Hodgkinson is a staff writer for Pro Football Network. You can follow him on Twitter at @ojhodgkinson.