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Chiefs Draft Profile: Chris Olave could become Mahomes’ most trusted receiver

Olave is one of the more polished prospects in the entire draft class

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Kyle Robertson/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

Wide receiver has been a hot selection for the Kansas City Chiefs in mock drafts ever since Tyreek Hill was traded to Miami. On top of that, there has been plenty of chatter that general manager Brett Veach could utilize one of his two first-round picks to trade up for a pass-catcher. One name, in particular, that might require a trade-up is Ohio State’s Chris Olave.

He is almost sure to go in the first round, but there is a possibility that he could slide due to numerous factors. Whether or not the Chiefs view him as a target worth moving up for remains unknown. The answer will become apparent soon enough as we are mere days from the NFL Draft.

Background

Olave was rated as a three-star prospect by ESPN and four-star by 247 Sports but still received offers from Michigan, Tennessee and USC.

He committed to Ohio State over in-state option UCLA after finishing up his high school career at Mission Hills in Southern California. He recorded only 12 catches in his 2018 freshman season, but three were touchdowns, which is not a bad way to get yourself some attention in the Big Ten. In his second season, he led the team in receiving yards with 840, but instead of 12 catches, he caught 12 touchdowns, which also led the Buckeyes.

In the Covid-plagued 2020 Big Ten, Olave caught seven touchdowns over the seven-game season, putting together three different 2-touchdown performances. He again amassed double-digit touchdowns, topping his old career mark with 13 in 2021. He also set career numbers in receptions and yards with 65 catches and 936 receiving yards in his senior campaign.

Olave did well for himself at the NFL Combine, and his 4.39 40-yard dash was the splashiest aspect of his performance. He looked as expected during field drills showing off his crisp route running and ball skills. Slated as a potential high first-round pick, he may be off the board well before the Chiefs get on the clock, which means a trade-up may be required to land him.

College film evaluation

Olave is on the slender side when it comes to NFL receivers (6 feet, 187 pounds), but he can still give his offense physical yards. Here we have an underneath route from Olave going opposite of the play flow. After securing the catch, he finishes at the pylon by fighting through a defender. A simple play, but it's the effort that you seek.

Here we see Olave being doubled up by the defense. He continues working to get open, and when the quarterback rolls to the right, Olave adapts and is able to not only find an open space but also secure a circus-like catch on the sideline with a defender tight in coverage. This is exactly the type of play the fan base has become familiar with in Kansas City.

The route running ability is the most talked-about facet of Olave’s skill set, and you can see why here. The way he sells a deep route with his head and shoulders is next-level stuff. You can see Olave dip his head like he is accelerating out but instead breaks to the inside, creating separation from the defender who has already flipped his hips to turn and run deep.

Olave once again can adapt to the scramble drill and give his quarterback and target. Olave breaks out toward the sideline working back to the ball, and, after securing the grab, hits the next gear. He is nearly tripped up, but he keeps his footing and can cut back to split two other defenders on his way to a score.

There are holes in his film and times when he leaves points on the field. Here we see what is a difficult catch but one that a player of Olave’s talent level should make regularly. There is a tight window there, and he has to adjust to the pass, but no reason not to haul this in.

We have another excellent example of the creativity and attention to detail that Olave brings with him. Olave puts his hand up to signal a request for a deep shot, but when the cornerback turns in to track the ball, Olave breaks out to the sideline and makes the wide-open catch.

Unfortunately, a holding call would reverse this touchdown, but Olave runs a clean post route here while pressing outside before breaking in. The defender has no chance with the speed Olave has, and he runs right past him. He beats the safety deep and hauls in the long ball for the would-be score.

Olave is open a lot and credit that to his route capabilities, but he has shown he can also secure a catch through contact. We see him working across the field and turns to complete the pass. He does, even with a defender running through him at the end of the play.

How he fits with the Chiefs

The wide receiver need for the Chiefs has been well-documented ever since the Tyreek Hill deal went down. Free-agent receiver acquisitions Juju Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling headline the newest offensive contributors. At the same time, Mecole Hardman returns for a contract year in a potential curtain-call season with the Chiefs. Smith-Schuster and Valdes-Scantling provide more size than what has been customary lately, and Hardman’s speed could be utilized a bit more in 2022.

Adding speed never hurts a football team, and Olave checks that box. He can pair the speed with a developed route tree that Andy Reid and the rest of the staff can optimize. On top of the speed, routes and ball skills, he can adapt to backyard football when the play breaks down. He doesn’t give up and always looks for a way to get open, which is where Tyreek Hill held a ton of his production.

The bottom line

Olave is one of the best receivers in the 2022 NFL Draft class, so odds are not in the Chiefs' favor for him to fall down many boards. Rumors are swirling that teams are more likely looking to trade back, so it shouldn’t be too tricky for Veach to secure a trade partner if he does see Olave as his guy.

The pick makes sense and he would give Patrick Mahomes a reliable option early in his career. He is someone I can see developing into Mahomes’ most trusted target down the road. He can get open in short, intermediate and deep routes, and at the end of the day, he would give the offense the firepower so many are afraid will be missing.

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