2021 NFL Draft: Chris Olave deserves to be considered in the first round

2022 NFL Draft hopeful Chris Olave #2 of the Ohio State Buckeyes (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
2022 NFL Draft hopeful Chris Olave #2 of the Ohio State Buckeyes (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images) /

Chris Olave deserves 1st-round consideration in the 2021 NFL Draft.

On December 28, 2019, the Ohio State Buckeyes took on the Clemson Tigers in the semi-final of the college football playoff. Both teams were just one win away from the biggest game of their players’ lives: the national championship. With forty-three seconds left In the game, Ohio State had the ball down 29-23.

They were driving down the field when head coach Ryan Day called a play he ran on fourth down earlier in the game. The play was designed for wide receiver Cris Olave, who was running a post route, but it was a complete disaster. At the peak of his route, Olave stopped in his tracks and changed directions almost as if he thought his quarterback Justin Fields was scrambling outside of the pocket.

This was not the case, as Fields stood firmly in the pocket ready to throw the ball.

Fields attempted to throw a pass to Olave, who likely would’ve been open, but he wasn’t there. Although Olave wasn’t in a position to catch the ball, Clemson safety Nolan Turner was and intercepted the pass to end the game.

This play has haunted Chris Olave for the past year and it’s a big reason why he decided to return to Ohio State rather than entering the NFL draft last year.

Chris Olave’s football career has been everything but smooth sailing.

In 2016, Chris Olave and his family moved to San Marcos, California before his junior year of high school. Due to transfer rules, Chris and his older brother Josh were forced to sit out a year. This meant that Josh missed out on his senior season while Chris missed an essential year of football for recruiting.

This had a big impact on Chris’s recruitment, as he was the 399th ranked player and 68th ranked wide receiver in the class of 2018. He committed to Ohio State as a three-star recruit and immediately the odds were against him. Out of 26 enrollees, he ranked 24th. The road to stardom would be long and bumpy.

Despite being overlooked in high school, Olave put his head down and got to work. He only played seven games as a freshman, but he exploded onto the scene during his sophomore year. Last season, Olave recorded 840 receiving yards and 12 receiving touchdowns.

His sophomore year was undoubtedly a success. Once an overlooked prospect from California, now he’s a college football star and one of the best wide receivers in the nation.

In 13 games last season, Olave had at least 100 receiving yards once. He has already tripled that number this season with three games of at least one hundred receiving yards. This is incredible considering Ohio State has only played four games so far. Statistically speaking, Olave is on pace to blow his sophomore season out of the water.

In football, the primary goal of wide receivers on each play is to get open. If you can’t get open, you can’t play receiver. You need to be able to create separation from defenders and gain an advantage to give the quarterback a window to throw to. This can be accomplished in many different ways. Receivers can use speed, physicality, and technique to separate themselves from defenders and create an open window.

Chris Olave is a technician who has fluid hips and uses his footwork to his advantage. He doesn’t overwhelm defenders with elite speed or brute strength, but he is intelligent and understands how to set up defenders and break on routes to create open opportunities.

In the first game of the season last year, Ohio State faced off against Florida Atlantic. On first and 10 with just under seven minutes left in the first quarter, Ohio State had possession in the red zone with an opportunity to score.

Florida Atlantic ran an inverted cover 2 and Ohio attacked it with just two routes: an in route and a post route. The in route brought the left deep half down toward the first-down marker, leaving Olave with a one-on-one matchup on the right side of the field.

Olave ran a post route and his technique was spectacular. He stemmed his route to the outside which forced the cornerback to turn his body in that direction. As soon as the cornerback turned, Olave took a step inside as the corner turned around with his back to the receiver.

Since the corner’s back was turned toward the receiver, he had to turn around which took himself out of position to make a play on the ball. At this point, the play was over and Olave found himself wide open in the end zone for a touchdown.

Despite sporting a 188-pound frame, Olave is very reliable in contested situations. He showcased his ability to make tough catches in week two against Penn State. Early in the first quarter, Olave had a one-on-one matchup on the right side of the field.

He used a space release off the line of scrimmage and hopped to the left side of the cornerback before cutting to the right to create an advantage. The cornerback wasn’t fooled at all and stuck to him like white on rice. Next, Olave hesitated ever so slightly, then ran full speed up the field. That second of hesitation gave him the space he needed.

Since there was a deep safety available to help the cornerback, Justin Fields had to throw the ball toward the sideline. This forced Olave to make a difficult catch over the cornerback and that’s exactly what he did. The corner never turned his head and Olave came down with the ball for a touchdown.

One issue that needs to be monitored is his fumbling. This hasn’t been a consistent issue until this season, but he has already fumbled twice in four games. NFL teams shouldn’t be alarmed by this, but it is something to keep your eye on.

When discussing who the top wide receivers in this year’s draft class are, Olave’s name rarely comes up. Although he doesn’t have the physical prowess or statistical profile of Ja’Marr Chase, Jaylen Waddle, and Devonta Smith, he is an exceptionally skilled wide receiver.

Chris Olave’s nuance as a route runner combined with his size and explosiveness makes him an intriguing prospect. He is creative in the way he creates advantages for himself and there’s no doubt that he has the work ethic to make it in the NFL.

His desire to outwork everyone else combined with his size and skilled route running is worthy of consideration in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft.