New Orleans Saints rookie review: WR Chris Olave

Chris Olave was the wide receiver the New Orleans Saints coveted all along during the 2022 NFL draft, and the team was over the moon to come away with him last April. So what’s the feeling for his first year in the pros now that it’s all behind him? How do you grade Olave’s performance after he very nearly reset the team’s rookie receiving records?

Let’s put a pin in the 2022 Saints rookie class by reviewing Olave’s campaign, having previously meditated on his fellow first-year pros Trevor Penning, Alontae Taylor, Rashid Shaheed, and Lewis Kidd. Here’s our take:

Snap counts

Olave led the Saints receiving corps with 607 snaps played on offense in his rookie year; only tight end Juwan Johnson (648) and running back Alvin Kamara (642) were on the field more often among the skills position players.

Season stats

Olave had the second-best rookie receiving output in franchise history, surpassing the great Marques Colston to total 72 receptions for 1,042 receiving yards with 4 touchdown catches and 48 first down conversions; only Michael Thomas beat those numbers. On a per-game basis, Olave averaged 4.8 receptions and 69.5 yards per outing, which are both well above average.

Pro Football Focus grade

PFF graded Olave as the team’s best player on offense to log more than 100 snaps, with an overall grade of 82.5 (running backs Eno Benjamin and Latavius Murray were slightly ahead but they played a combined 38 snaps). Much of Olave’s performance is due to his team-leading 82.9 grade on pass plays, with his average rating as a run blocker (57.6) slightly dropping him.

Season recap, future outlook

Olave was really impressive in his rookie debut. He set a high standard for himself moving forwards and he’ll need to work hard to not just maintain it, but clear up the weaknesses in his game. The biggest thing he needs to work on his developing a greater element of physicality — not just as a run blocker out wide, but when the ball is coming his way. He wasn’t very effective on contested catches (PFF charting had him catching 8 of 24 contested targets) and he only averaged 3.0 yards after catch per reception. He probably needs to play at a higher weight than his listed 189 pounds, but you don’t want him bulking up too far and losing the speed that helps make him special.

Season grade

The Saints shared very high expectations for Olave after trading up to get him last spring, and he lived up to them by making eye-popping catches almost every week. And his ceiling is still very high if more things can improve around him, like finding an upgrade at quarterback and improving the overall supporting cast on offense. But those are problems to ponder another time. For now, there’s no other way to look back on Olave’s rookie season than as a success.

Grade: A

Story originally appeared on Saints Wire