Chris Olave Fantasy Breakout Incoming?

by Shervon Fakhimi · Best Ball Plays & Strategy

A majority of the ‘My Guys’ listed on the staff bios on are not guys with super-high ADPs. If you read my first two ‘My Guy’ articles on Geno Smith and Greg Dulcich, you’d notice those guys have ADPs into the 100s on Underdog at the moment. Finding sleepers is more fun to be sure. However, there’s a second-year surefire star being drafted in the second or third round that is ready to explode this season. The Chris Olave fantasy breakout is here in 2023! 

Historic Rookie Season

Chris Olave is awesome. I admit I wasn’t the highest on him after he came out of Ohio State. However, it turns out he’s a good player. His fantasy finishes last year don’t paint the complete picture. He was the WR26 in both PPR points per game and total points per game. What’s the big deal? The big deal is that Chris Olave lowkey put together one of the best rookie seasons of all time from a pass-catcher.

Take a look at that list again. Only four rookie pass catchers put together more efficient yards per route run rookie seasons than Olave did last season while running at least 300 routes as a rookie: Odell Beckham Jr., A.J. Brown, Justin Jefferson, and Ja’Marr Chase. That’s not just elite company, that’s historic. 
That’s only talking about rookies, though. How did Chris Olave fare compared to the rest of the NFL last season? Olave ranked No. 10 in target rate among wide receivers (29.3-percent) and yards per route run (2.57), No. 15 in target share (26.7-percent), and No. 9 in yards per team pass attempt (2.26). As a rookie.

Chris Olave dominates almost every single advanced stat you could possibly look at. You can also point to the film. Our charting team here at PlayerProfiler found that Olave ranked No. 12 in route win rate among wide receivers last season. He ranked No. 19 in route win rate vs man coverage and No. 2 in target rate vs man coverage. If he was this good, how the hell did Olave finish as the WR26 last season?

Hold Me Back

The answer is quarterback play. The Saints’ offense as a whole wasn’t great in 2022. They ranked No. 22 in offensive DVOA according to Football Outsiders. The truth is great receivers can still produce for fantasy in bad offenses. Case in point: the Los Angeles Rams were No. 23 in offensive DVOA and Cooper Kupp was still the WR1 in points per game last season. However, when you combine bad quarterback play with a low pass volume in a bad offense, that’s when the deck is stacked against a fantasy receiver from producing. That’s what happened to Chris Olave.

Jameis Winston may have his faults as a real-life NFL quarterback. However, he is everything fantasy gamers want out of a support system for one of his teammates for fantasy purposes. Winston chucks it deep, and he chucks it often. He’s accurate, he doesn’t run to drain volume out of the passing game, and he sometimes makes a mistake to put his team in necessary pass-happy game scripts.

Passing Volume

In his three starts for the Saints in 2022, he threw the ball 34, 40, and 41 times. This was great for Chris Olave. Olave registered 29 targets in the three games Winston started last season. He caught 17 of them for 268 yards. Olave accumulated 545 air yards in those games! Bear in mind that Michael Thomas was healthy for these three games too.

Unfortunately, Winston was injured, and Andy Dalton steered the ship for the rest of the season. Olave was still solid during Dalton’s tenure as a starter, but you could see how the shift to Dalton drastically altered the Saints’ approach offensively and impacted Olave’s fantasy output. Remember how the fewest number of passes Winston attempted was 34 during his three weeks as a starter? Dalton eclipsed that mark just once in 14 starts. He and Jameis Winston had the same number of starts with 30 or more pass attempts in 2022.

New Orleans averaged 38.3 pass attempts per game with Winston under center and 27 attempts per game with Dalton at QB. For context, if you extrapolated that average with Winston at QB over the course of New Orleans’ 17 games, you’d have gotten 651 pass attempts. That number would’ve tied the Chiefs for the No. 5-most pass attempts in the NFL. Dalton’s average over 17 games? 459. That’s two more than Carolina’s 457 pass attempts. Carolina ranked No. 29 in the NFL in pass attempts.

Bad QB Play

Chris Olave had two games with at least 150 air yards with Winston under center. He had one such game with Dalton. In all, Olave ranked No. 53 among receivers in catchable target rate (75.6-percent) and No. 72 in QB rating per target (79.2). Those stats say more about the quarterback than they do the receiver. Olave could’ve put together a special fantasy season in a better team environment, especially after Michael Thomas was hurt and missed the rest of the season from Week 3 onward.

That New Carr Smell

Luckily for Chris Olave, a better team environment should be on the horizon. The Saints signed Derek Carr after he and the Las Vegas Raiders agreed it was time for a divorce. On the surface, Carr’s arrival might not mean much. However, Carr could unlock Chris Olave. Carr had the reputation of a dink-and-dunk guy at the beginning of his career. In recent years, he’s pushed the ball down the field much more frequently to much success. Carr never finished above QB17 in air yards per attempt from 2014-2019. He has never finished below QB15 in that stat since 2020.

Air Yards Finishes

He’s finished No. 11, No. 5, and No. 5 in air yards in that span. He’s ranked No. 8, No. 14, and No. 5 in money throws in that span. Last year was a bit of a step back for Carr as he ranked No. 20 in adjusted yards per attempt (6.4) and No. 30 in true completion percentage (65.2-percent), but he was No. 9 in both metrics in 2021 and No. 10 and No. 2 in those metrics in 2020. This isn’t a small sample size either. Carr ranked No. 14 (517), No. 5 (626), and No. 11 (502) in pass attempts from 2020 onward. He would’ve thrown more than 502 passes in 2022 too had the Raiders been more competitive and not benched him to avoid risking Carr getting injured after moving on from him.

Most importantly for us degenerates, Derek Carr has supported his primary pass-catchers in fantasy. In 2019, Darren Waller was the TE5 in points per game (13.8) in PPR scoring. In 2020, Waller was the TE2 in that department (17.3), trailing only Travis Kelce (20.8). Waller was the TE7 in points per game in 2021 but would’ve been the TE5 if you take out the game he was injured during in Week 12. Once Davante Adams came to town, Carr kept him afloat for fantasy purposes too. Adams averaged 19.26 PPR points per game in Derek Carr‘s 15 starts last season. That was good for the WR5. 


The stage is set for Chris Olave in 2023. We already know he’s an outstanding talent, but the team around him didn’t allow us a collective to register how special he truly is. The addition of Derek Carr should help Olave exponentially. Add a probable suspension of Alvin Kamara, and/or a possible injury to Michael Thomas, and Olave could be left alone to soak in all the targets imaginable. If I didn’t do Chris Olave‘s impending breakout justice, maybe the king of wide receivers and the founder of Reception Perception Matt Harmon will.

Chris Olave will be a league winner this season. You have permission to draft him in 2023.