By Dylan MacKinnon
Going into the offseason, the assumption among fans and media was that the Eagles would address their WR needs in free agency. Turns out Wide Receivers were very expensive, and they have yet to land one. Meaning the Eagles may once again invest a first-round pick in a WR. It would be the third time they did so in three years. Not to mention the 2nd round pick that invested in JJ Arcega-Whiteside. But would that be worth it to land a player like Chris Olave? Let’s take a closer look at the WR out of Ohio State.
Speed Pops Off The Tape
The thing that most stands out about Chris Olave is speed. He was clocked at 4.26 seconds in the 40-yard dash. That is the 3rd fastest performance of All-Time at the NFL Combine. But what is more impressive is what the tape shows. He is not one of those guys who just show up at the combine but doesn’t have actual game speed. His speed in games makes him a genuine game-breaker, capable of a home run play at any moment.
But he is more than just a speedster. His route running is both fluid and professional. He knows how to get open. And he also has some of the best hands in the country, so when he does get open and you throw it his way, he is usually going to come down with it. He also tracks the ball really well, which has been an issue for certain recent Eagles receivers. Here is what his head coach, Ryan Day, said about him heading into this last year.
“His first 10 yards are special, and then so is his ability to track a ball down the field. He can get in and out of stuff quick. He’s got strong hands. For not being a thick guy, he’s stronger than you’d think. He’s like wiry strong. He can kind of lean into guys, catch the ball in traffic. And he’s very intelligent, so he knows how to set up guys.”- Ryan Day told The Athletic
And those traits lead to some impressive production while at Ohio State. In his last 3 seasons, he had 32 touchdowns, 2,514 yards, on 164 catches. By far his most impressive year was in 2020, where despite only playing in 7 games he had 729 yards and 7tds. Though one could also say he failed to match that production this past season where despite playing in 4 more games the final numbers were similar to 2020.
And this combo of size and great route running made it hard to cover him with a single corner. In fact, he led the nation in TDs vs single coverage.
He has two First Team All-Big 10’s to his name, a third-team All-Big 10, and finished as a Fred Biletnikoff semi-finalist this year.
Areas for Improvement
The first concern is something he cant really improve. He is a bit small. There is some concern from scouts that he will be neutralized by larger defensive backs. Now with that said, in Philly we recently saw the same criticism towards Devonta Smith, who had no issues battling with NFL corners in his rookie year.
But it is also worth mentioning with Smith we had tape of him battling SEC corners and winning. Big 10 defenses and secondaries aren’t as imposing. The tape showed Smith had no issue with play strength, and he was winning on contested catches consistently. Olave’s tape showed he more so relies on using his speed and route running to get open. There were times more physical corners were able to smother him and take him out of plays.
I was able to watch Devonta Smith in college and be confident he could stand up to NFL coverage. I don’t have that same confidence in Olave. That is not to say he cant. Just that there is a risk there. With that said. his speed and route running are good enough its unlikely he is a bust. He may just not be able to create as much space consistently as he did in College.
There is also a weird thing where his run-after-the-catch ability leaves much to be desired. One would think with his speed and twitchiness he would be great after the catch. But the YAC production just isn’t there.
Was Not Supposed to Be This Good
Chris Olave’s success at Ohio State was not something expected as he came out of high school. He was just a 3 star recruit, and barely had any experience at the WR position. But in 4 years at Ohio State, he became one of the best WRs in the Nation, and even more surprisingly, perhaps the most technically sound.
One would think someone with less time and experience at the position, technique and skill would be an area of weakness. but man did he pick up the technical parts of playing the position fast.
“It took a lot of work. I didn’t really start playing receiver until my junior year of high school. It was just kinda raw talent in high school. When I got here, I worked on my skills to become a better receiver. There was a lot of technical stuff I had to work on.”- Chris Olave to The Athletic
Olave sat down with The Athletic to break down some of his best plays from the 2020 season. And he speaks about playing WR the way Scientists discuss their field of expertise. For being someone fairly new to WR, and who was not highly regarded just a few years ago, his knowledge of the different techniques and specifics of playing WR is hugely impressive.
What Draft Experts Say
“Olave is smooth, steady and makes things happen. His movements are fluid and easy from snap to the catch and all points between. He’s fast but efficient and plays with the bend and foot agility to uncover on all three levels. Olave possesses natural, well-rounded ball skills but needs to add play strength to ward off the physical challenges that are headed his way. His play traits should allow for success beyond the scheme and talent advantages surrounding him at Ohio State. He is an inside/outside hybrid appealing to offenses looking for a field-stretcher with the ability to take on a sizable catch load.”
“Olave is a silky-smooth route runner. He varies his releases to avoid press coverage and understands how to properly leverage defenders in off coverage. (Olave) changes speeds/tempo to keep defenders uncomfortable, which leads to separation down the field. He has outstanding vertical speed and can find another gear when the ball is in the air. He tracks the ball naturally and has reliable hands.
Olave is a polished, instinctive player, but he does need to get stronger. He goes down too easily after the catch. I’d love to see him pull through tackles on occasion instead of consistently allowing the first defender to get him on the ground. I love his effort as a blocker, but he gets tossed around far too often. He doesn’t need to morph into Hines Ward, but he does need to get a little stronger in order to effectively shield off defenders in the run game.”
It is hard to see Chris Olave being a bust. His combination of speed and great technique should make him at the least semi productive. But with his size and lack of play strength, there is a upside concern. He is occasionally going to face better corners than he ever saw in college in the NFL. Scouts have been concerned what physical corners will do to him. And unlike DeVonta Smith, we don’t have tape of Chris Olave already beating those type of corners.
So I wouldn’t say there is risk to picking Chris Olave. But the Eagles already have someone who is a better version of what Olave is, DeVonta Smith. With that said, While Olave is good, it may be better if the Eagles target a different type of WR. Such as Treylon Burks. Olave would not a be a bad pick, he just does not add anything they don’t already have. The Eagles need someone who can be more of a bruiser at WR. And that is certainly not Olave.