ESPN names Saints WR Chris Olave the NFL’s second-best rookie

It’s been a tough year of football for New Orleans Saints fans, but one consistent source of positive plays has been Chris Olave. The rookie wide receiver, selected at No. 11 overall in this year’s draft, already ranks among league leaders with 618 receiving yards — and the analysts at ESPN have been so impressed that they ranked Olave the second-best rookie around the NFL at the season’s midway point.

Here’s what ESPN’s Matt Bowen had to say about Olave’s year so far:

“Smooth in the route tree and showcasing the vertical stretch ability to float past defenders, Olave has impressed as a perimeter target early in his NFL career. The rookie has already logged seven explosive-play receptions this season, and his ability to separate opens up opportunities at the second level of the field, too.”

Additionally, ESPN’s Jordan Reid observed that Olave leads the entire rookie class with 14.9 air yards per target through Week 9, which demonstrates how the Saints are often asking their first-year pro to make a play deep downfield on passes with a high degree of difficulty. The Saints are trusting Olave to make plays, and he’s coming through for them.

So who’s ahead of him? None other than New York Jets cornerback Sauce Gardner, who has been just as effective against No.1 receivers in the NFL each week as he was covering them for the Cincinnati Bearcats in college. Those two are making their case for Offensive and Defensive Rookie of the Year recognition, and Olave’s contributions should help keep the Saints competitive for a long time.

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Story originally appeared on Saints Wire