The following contrived dichotomy is to determine which player we should draft in our fantasy football dynasty leagues. Using a boxing analogy, this is Red Corner vs Blue Corner. Introducing first, in the RED CORNER: representing the New Orleans Saints, standing 6-0 and weighing in at 180-pounds: CHRIS OLAVE. His opponent, in the BLUE CORNER: representing the Detroit Lions, standing 6-1 and weighing in at 180-pounds: JAMESON WILLIAMS.
The Tale of the Tape
Despite Justin Jefferson‘s and Ja’Marr Chase‘s recent successes, we know wide receivers shouldn’t always be expected to boom in Year 1 especially when they’re in murky situations without stud quarterbacks. However, we’re looking at comparing Olave and Williams through a dynasty lens. We also know both of their respective franchises could have a new quarterback as soon as 2023.
Olave and Williams are perfect for this edition of red corner/blue corner because they are neck and neck in rookie draft ADP, are both undersized speedy wideout archetypes, and face quarterback uncertainty in the future. So, where should you draft Olave and Williams in drafts? Let’s dive into it.
New Orleans traded its No. 16, No. 98, and No. 120 overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft to move up to No. 11 to select Olave. Needless to say, he was a top priority as the first pick in the post-Sean Peyton era. There’s been plenty of debate on whether or not it was a foolish trade-up, but here we are.
Olave posted 176 catches for 2,711 yards and 36 touchdowns in 38 games during his four-year career at Ohio State. He produced despite sharing a field with Parris Campbell, Terry McLaurin, Garrett Wilson, Jameson Williams, and Jaxon Smith-Njigba at different points while in Columbus. After posting a 4.39 40-yard dash (94th-percentile) at the combine, and grabbing top 15 draft capital, his rookie draft ADP sits at pick seven – solidly in the middle of the first round.
Olave possesses the requisite speed to be a game-changer downfield and has the Ohio State wideout pedigree working in his favor. Film grinders love his route running prowess, and his raw college production shows us he can and will likely produce at the next level. His 26.0-percent (77th-percentile) College Target Share and 19.2 (85th-percentile) Breakout Age are also solid enough and don’t raise concerns.
The age 21.9 receiver has every opportunity to produce from day one with Michael Thomas still dealing with lingering lower-body injuries. Jarvis Landry just came to town, but even if you still believe in Juice, there will be plenty of work for Olave to seize.
Fantasy gamers might cringe at Jamies Winston as QB1 in New Orleans, but the quarterback situation can play out one of two ways. Either Winston takes a step forward in 2022, or he’s replaced as soon as 2023 and no later than 2024. Either way, this should be viewed as a neutral QB situation with lots of upside. We’ve seen Winston support monster producers in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin.
In summary, Olave is a polished pass-catcher with a solid resume of production in a wide-open wide receiver room – playing with a high-upside quarterback in 2022. Overall, it’s easy to see why his truthers are getting excited about him.
Olave’s raw numbers look fantastic, but when we look at them with a bit of context, they aren’t as impressive. His 31.8-percent (58th-percentile) College Dominator Rating could mean his upside is limited. 31.8-percent indicates a mid-level talent with situational upside. This doesn’t assume he’ll be a bust, but in many cases, it means he’ll struggle to be a team’s No. 1 WR at the next level. It’s already concerning Olave wasn’t an early declare, but beyond that, he ranked No. 3 among Ohio State pass-catchers in receptions, yards, and yards-per-reception – in his SENIOR SEASON. His competition for targets were no slouches (Wilson and Smith-Njigba), but it’s hard to brush that tidbit of data off. If he couldn’t be the top option during his final season in college, why should we expect him to be in the NFL, where he’s playing with NFL-caliber WRs exclusively?
Olave is a zero in the YAC department, posting 0.5 broken and missed tackles per reception (No. 43 among draftable wide receivers) and 4.2 Yards After Catch Per Reception (No. 37 among draftable WRs). Considering he operated down the field out of traffic, these are staggering data points. There are plenty of solid fantasy wide receivers who aren’t great after the catch, but rarely are they drafted in the top-15, and rarely do they produce nuclear fantasy seasons. That said, Olave will likely need to be a high-volume ball-hog to reach his ceiling, especially with just a 116.4 (25th-percentile) Burst Score.
Olave’s profile and situation suggest he will likely produce right away and be a steady low-end WR2 or high-end WR3 throughout his career. There’s always a place for those kinds of players on dynasty rosters, but his upside feels limited by his college dominator rating and lack of YAC acumen. If you’re a “safe” drafter, he’s probably high on your radar because he might be the safest wide receiver in the draft class. Among receivers taken in the first round, his ceiling is probably lower than anyone not named Jahan Dotson, though.
Similar to the Saints with Olave, the Lions were dead set on trading up to get Williams at pick No. 12 (in exchange for No. 32, No. 46, No. 66). After two years of sitting behind the Ohio State studs, Williams found his way to Alabama in his junior year and boy did he smash in the Crimson Tide offense. One-year producers always feel risky, but his breakout season was good enough to land him top-15 draft capital, too.
Williams totaled just 15 catches for 266 yards in his age 18 and 19 seasons at Ohio State, before melting faces in Tuscaloosa with a 79 catch, 1572 yard, and 15 touchdown season at age 20. Despite catching 17 fewer passes than John Metchie, he posted 400-plus more yards and grabbed the No. 1 WR role by the horns in the Bryce Young offense. Again, a one-year wonder brings plenty of worries, but with a season this dominant, he’s become one of the hottest names in fantasy football.
We did it with Olave, so let’s talk landing spot with Williams. There was once a golden rule in fantasy football to avoid Detroit Lions not named Calvin Johnson, but should we be following that premise in 2022? By all accounts, this is a franchise that finally looks to be building the right way, and just last season, D’Andre Swift, T.J. Hockenson, and Amon-Ra St. Brown had their moments in the context of fantasy. That said, let’s retire that old narrative. You could argue Detroit has a clearer path to the promised land than New Orleans, New York (Jets), Washington, or any other first-round WR landing spots. Jared Goff has supported fantasy-relevant WRs, but he’ll likely be out of a job in 2023, anyway.
Williams’ best key metrics are his 19.9 (93rd-percentile) Yards Per Reception, 4.30 (99th-percentile) 40-Yard Dash, and 105.3 (84th-percentile) Speed Score. He can presumably win downfield, but much of his production came from his elite YAC prowess. He is a dangerous return man and an electric athlete in space – the polar opposite of Olave.
These small speed-demons wideouts like Henry Ruggs and Jon Ross have boom-or-bust written all over them, but the upside is undeniable.
Injury Concerns and One-Hit Wonder?
The most glaring and obvious con is that Williams couldn’t find his way on the field at Ohio State competing with top-level college receivers. Thus, his 20.4 (50th-percentile) Breakout Age leaves a lot to be desired. He also wasn’t overly dominant within the context of his offense with a 31.1-percent (55th-percentile) College Dominator Rating and 20.7 percent (54th-percentile) College Target Share. He did lead his team in yards and touchdowns thanks to efficiency, but he wasn’t necessarily a target hog.
Williams tore his ACL in the National Championship game against Georgia, so he wasn’t able to go through the testing portion of the NFL combine. Sure, we can assume he would’ve tested well in all areas, but we have to be prudent and wary of black-box prospects. He’s unlikely to be ready for the start of the NFL’s regular season, so if you need instant production in your lineup, he’s probably not the guy you want.
His competition for targets is tough to evaluate. Will the Lions’ new quarterback in 2023 be a passive check-down guy like Goff? Will D.J. Chark be a part of the equation in the future? Was Amon-Ra’s 2021 campaign more than a fluke? Those are just a few of the questions that raise uncertainty. The range of outcomes is wide, which can be a positive or a negative, depending on your style.
Overall, Williams feels like a high-upside long-term play, and a perfect example of the classic boom-or-bust WR. Thanks to his knee injury, we shouldn’t expect a ton of production in Year 1. Again, don’t be turned off by the Lions’ helmet. Savvy NFL fans know they’re building the right way.
When it comes to Olave and Williams, Williams is going one spot ahead of Olave in rookie drafts. This is as close to a coin flip as you can get. The prospects will be compared for years to come, and this is an important decision in the middle of the first round to shape your dynasty rosters for the years ahead.
For my money, I’m taking Jameson Williams. When you run the numbers, only one player can win a fantasy championship in any given season, and Williams’ ceiling is far higher than Olave’s. It’s far easier to envision a scenario where Williams is a league-winner thanks to his explosive skill-set. Especially in best-ball leagues, I’m far from worried about his boom-or-bust skill set. Sure, you can’t ignore his ACL injury altogether, but that’s not causing me to ultimately fade him. His best comparable player is Will Fuller. Let’s hope he doesn’t follow the same injury trajectory, but I’m comfortable with that comparison having a high-upside, boom-week stud.
Olave’s lack of YAC skills suggests he’ll never be an explosive playmaker capable of scoring fantasy points in chunk plays. His ceiling can only be unblocked by a ton of volume, likely with a top-notch QB like Stefon Diggs with Josh Allen and Michael Thomas with Drew Brees. All things equal, Williams’ ceiling is a step above Olave’s. For those still playing in standard leagues in the year 2022, Williams is the clear choice.
If you’re a contender who needs instant production, Olave would make more sense, but I’m taking a high ceiling over a high floor in 2022 rookie drafts.