The New England Patriots are facing a number of questions this offseason. How will they fill the spots vacated on their offensive staff? What will Joe Judge and Matt Patricia’s roles be on that new look staff? How will they approach J.C. Jackson’s pending free agency? What moves will they make to improve their aging defense?
That list is a good start, but a sneaky important question that needs to be answered is, what can New England do to help Mac Jones make the ever important second year jump? The best answer to that question has come from former longtime Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia, who said the team needed to find Jones a, “binkie.”
“We’ve always had that guy, a guy who moved the chains, whether it was Wes Welker, Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, when all else failed, he was that guy. But they do not have that guy right now.”
Mac Jones certainly had receivers he could trust in 2021, but the distinction between a trusted receiver and one that can bail a quarterback out is an important one to make. Jakobi Meyers and Hunter Henry developed into a formidable duo for Jones down the stretch last season, accounting for almost half of the teams first down receptions, but neither player was what could be considered dynamic.
New England needs someone who can do more. Not just a slot receiver or a red zone threat, but a wide receiver who can be counted on to raise the game of those around him. Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce that man.
Name: Chris Olave
Position: Wide Receiver
School: Ohio State (Senior)
Opening day age: 22
2021 stats: 11 games, 65 receptions, 936 yards, 13 touchdowns
Size: 6’1”, 190lbs
Expected round: 1st-2nd
Strengths: Smooth. That is the word that comes to mind when watching Chris Olave play football. For as technical as the game has become, specifically with the development of young wide receivers, Olave just makes everything look so easy. That’s not to say that Ohio State’s all-time leader in receiving touchdowns isn’t technically proficient, because he is. No one runs a crisper route in college football and there are very few people on the planet who can track the football like Olave. He spent his Junior season as Justin Fields’ top target in a high powered Buckeyes offense, catching five touchdowns of 20 yards or more.
Chris Olave creates separation. He’s not going to outmuscle a CB for a 50/50 ball or take screen the distance. Instead he’ll run a crisp route and give the QB a big ass window to throw into.— Keagan Stiefel (@KeaganStiefel) January 26, 2022
Neutralize leverage, race to the pylon, outstanding hands. Too easy. pic.twitter.com/KCGAz7VvLi
In his Senior season, Olave transitioned into a more reserved role, acting as Freshman quarterback C.J. Stroud’s ‘binkie’ throughout the season. In making that transition, Olave became a more well rounded receiver who excelled not just in the vertical passing game, but in short and intermediate areas as well. By taking a backseat in terms of his role, he actually improved his numbers and got better at his craft.
Olave is as polished a route runner you’ll find at the college level, there is no hitch in anything he does. Here he is selling a goal line fade before jettisoning towards the pylon and getting both feet down. He is always aware of where he’s at on the field. pic.twitter.com/zilM2OjpY8— Keagan Stiefel (@KeaganStiefel) January 26, 2022
You may be wondering how he got to become such a prolific part of Ohio State’s offense, and the short answer is by showing up on special teams and pulling through in pivotal moments during his freshman season. Olave is a special teams ace who was one of the best gunners in the Big Ten throughout his career, while being a premier rush man on the punt return team, blocking three kicks in his career. When given an opportunity in the 2017 Ohio State-Michigan matchup, Olave proved to be the best player on the field.
Someone tell Bill Belichick that he’s also a superstar special teams player.— Keagan Stiefel (@KeaganStiefel) January 26, 2022
Kids a stud and worthy of a top 20 pick. If he falls, it would be stupid not to take him. pic.twitter.com/iKayKShYif
Weaknesses: For as much as I love Chris Olave, his lack of size is hard to overlook. He’s listed at 6-foot-1, 190 pounds, both of which seem to be a stretch.
There are plenty of smaller receivers in the NFL who have excelled, but most of those guys carved out roles in the slot or displayed a level of speed or short area agility that made it a non factor. Olave isn’t quite there with either aspect of his game. He’s fast, but not Tyreek Hill fast. He’s agile, but not Julian Edelman agile. To truly break out and become a number one receiver at the next level, Olave will need to improve his play strength.
What would be his role? In the perfect world, Chris Olave would step into the NFL as a number two receiver and perfectly complement an A.J. Brown or Davante Adams type of receiver. In New England, he’d be the number one guy from day one.
This certainly isn’t an issue as we’ve seen similar receivers to Olave be successful around the league. Stefon Diggs is the current day blueprint, with Deion Branch being a Patriots-based comparison that isn’t too far off.
Does he have positional versatility? Olave is an outside receiver. He can serve in the ‘X’ or ‘Z’ role depending on the offense. In New England, he would likely play in a similar role to the one that Nelson Agholor occupied in 2021, in an effort to complement Kendrick Bourne and Jakobi Meyers.
Who’s his competition? As previously mentioned, Nelson Agholor occupied the ‘X’ spot in 2021, making him Chris Olave’s chief competition in New England. That’s good news for the soon-to-be rookie, as Agholor is only under contract for one more season and has been viewed as a player who could potentially be moved prior to the season.
Why the Patriots? Finding a dynamic young playmaker who can help your young quarterback improve is always going to be a good thing. New England’s offense seemed to be capped last season. With a lack of playmakers on the outside, they were more of a “matriculate the ball down the field” kind of offense than one that can strike in a number of different ways.
Adding Chris Olave to an offense that already has Hunter Henry, Jonnu Smith, Jakobi Meyers, Kendrick Bourne, Damian Harris, and Rhamondre Stevenson is basically just adding all of the components that it doesn’t already have.
Why not the Patriots? First round wide receivers just haven’t worked in New England. That fact seems to be one that would unnerve fans more than it would those in power, but it’s something that cannot be overlooked. Add in the fact that New England has other spots to address in the draft and you’ve got more than enough reasons to dismiss this idea.
Verdict: If you know anything about me as a human being then you know I’m all about Chris Olave becoming a Patriot. I believe he could be a franchise changing player in New England. Drafting him to be your young star quarterback’s ‘binkie’ would be a great start towards building a competitive team in the AFC.