Just two New Orleans Saints players were selected for the Pro Bowl Games last year, with defensive end Cameron Jordan joining linebacker Demario Davis as an alternate. Could one of their younger teammates earn a spot at the all-star event this season?
If so, it’s probably going to be second-year wide receiver Chris Olave. He was highlighted by Around the NFL writer Kevin Patra, who compared Olave to some of the biggest names at receiver in the league while previewing potential first-time Pro Bowlers in the NFC. Here’s why he’s a believer in Olave:
Olave is a stud, putting up 1,042 yards on 72 catches with four touchdowns in 15 games as a rookie. A big-play force, Olave was one of six rookies since 2010 to post 70-plus receptions and average 14-plus yards per catch, joining Ja’Marr Chase, Justin Jefferson, Odell Beckham Jr., Amari Cooper and Keenan Allen. Olave’s ability to beat corners with precise route running generates space QB’s love. The pairing with Derek Carr will likely be a match made in heaven. Olave’s explosive ability and Carr’s deep-ball acumen should lead to a host of highlights in the Bayou.
Olave will be competing with other players on Patra’s list like his fellow second-year pro Jahan Dotson (Washington Commanders), plus veterans D.J. Moore (Chicago Bears) and his own Saints predecessor Brandin Cooks (these days with the Dallas Cowboys) for that Pro Bowl nod, and that’s not even mentioning the wide receivers who were selected last season.
It’s a loaded group. Jefferson was joined by CeeDee Lamb and Terry McLaurin with Amon-Ra St. Brown replacing A.J. Brown (who was playing in Super Bowl LVII). Olave’s impressive rookie stat line went for 72 receptions and 1,042 yards, scoring 4 touchdown catches and converting 48 first downs, but here’s how he compared to each of them:
Justin Jefferson: 128 receptions for 1,809 yards and 8 touchdown catches, 80 first down conversions
CeeDee Lamb: 107 receptions for 1,359 yards and 9 touchdown catches, 67 first down conversions
Terry McLaurin: 77 receptions for 1,191 yards and 5 touchdown catches, 56 first down conversions
Amon-Ra St. Brown: 106 receptions for 1,161 yards and 6 touchdown catches, 68 first down conversions
McLaurin and St. Brown look like the guys Olave should be chasing, and circumstances do work in his favor. He won’t be celebrating an injury to his former Ohio State teammate, but McLaurin is expected to start the season hampered by a bad case of turf toe. If he’s slowed down, Olave could benefit in the race for Pro Bowl votes. But so could Dotson while playing in the same Washington offense.
Hopefully Carr’s arrival will help him elevate his game as high as Patra, the Saints, their fans, and fantasy football team managers far and wide believe it will. Olave has enjoyed a highly productive offseason with New Orleans and appears poised to take the next step in his career. His first step is next week against the Tennessee Titans.