'They told me in the process they love the Buckeyes': Chris Olave is headed to New Orleans

Joey Kaufman
The Columbus Dispatch

Chris Olave joined former Ohio State teammate Garrett Wilson as a first-round selection in the NFL draft.

Olave was taken No. 11 overall by the New Orleans Saints on Thursday night, only one pick after Wilson was drafted by the New York Jets at No. 10 overall.

New Orleans moved up to nab Olave, parting with the No. 16 overall pick and third and fourth-rounders in a trade with the Washington Commanders. 

"I had no idea they were going to trade up," Olve said during a video conference with reporters, "and when I got the call after my teammate got selected, that’s when my dreams turned into reality."

Until Wilson and Olave heard their names called in consecutive picks, it had been 15 years since a Buckeyes wide receiver had gone in the first round.

Olave was one of the most prolific pass catchers in the program’s history, hauling in a school-record 35 touchdowns over four seasons. His 176 receptions and 2,711 receiving yards for his career also rank third and fifth on Ohio State's all-time list.

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He was often a potent downfield weapon for quarterbacks C.J. Stroud and Justin Fields, and his smooth route running allowed him to separate from defensive backs.

Appearing on the set of ESPN’s College GameDay in Las Vegas ahead of the draft, Buckeyes coach Ryan Day pointed to Olave’s knack for stretching defenses vertically, an ability that could allow him to make an impact in the league.

“Chris is a big-pay receiver,” Day said, “with his ability to go downfield and make plays and track downfield.”

Olave was eligible to enter the draft last year, but he returned for his senior season in pursuit of a national championship and to become a more well-rounded receiver.

New Orleans will use Olave to complement All-Pro receiver Michael Thomas, who also starred at Ohio State before he was taken in the second round by the franchise in 2016. 

Thomas is recovering from an ankle injury that sidelined him for all of last season.

"They told me in the process they love the Buckeyes," Olave said, "so I know it’s going to be a good fit for me."

Despite all of his production, Olave flew under the radar in high school. Coming out of Mission Hills in suburban San Diego, the three-star prospect was the third-lowest-ranked recruit in the Buckeyes' 2018 recruiting class.

He only received attention from Ohio State after Day, then the team's offensive coordinator, visited Southern California in 2017 to watch quarterback Jack Tuttle, who was one of Olave's teammates. 

Catching passes from Tuttle during a workout, Olave stood out. 

The pre-draft process helped Olave to boost his stock and cement himself as a first-round pick.

At the NFL scouting combine in March, Olave ran the 40-yard dash in 4.39 seconds, an official time that was the eighth-fastest among receivers in attendance.

Olave did not visit with the Saints in New Orleans this spring, but he said he met with their coaching staff over dinner in Columbus last month after they visited for his pro-day workout. 

He and Wilson caught passes from Stroud during a scripted throwing session.

"We really had a good connection there," Olave said. "We talked a couple of times after that, but that was pretty much it."

Olave was the third receiver taken off the board during the opening round of the draft. Before Wilson was grabbed by the Jets with the last pick in the top-10, the Atlanta Falcons took USC's Drake London two picks earlier. 

Alabama wide receiver Jameson Williams followed Olave as he was taken No. 12 overall by the Detroit Lions. Williams spent two seasons at Ohio State and was the team's third-leading receiver in 2020 before transferring last year. 

The middle of the first round was heavy on receivers as Penn State's Jahan Dotson went No. 16 to Washington and Arkansas' Treylon Burks ended up going No. 18 to the Tennessee Titans. 

According to ESPN Stats & Information research, it was the first time in the common draft era, which began in 1967, that six receivers had gone in the first 20 picks.

Joey Kaufman covers Ohio State football for The Columbus Dispatch. Contact him at or on Twitter @joeyrkaufman.

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