Matt Waldman’s RSP Boiler Room examines 2022 NFL Draft prospect Chris Olave and illustrates the Buckeye receiver’s ball-tracking expertise and the advanced decision-making embedded within his choices.
While I still have a few layers of analysis left with my scouting process, I currently have Olave ever so slightly higher than Garrett Wilson. Depending on your corner of the country, Wilson has garnered more acclaim this year and whether they fully realize it, it’s because he’s a flashier receiver.
A good prospect, Wilson has some flaws that aren’t discussed too often at this stage. One is his hand usage that leads to unforced errors that, if history is any indicator, will be magnified in the NFL. Another is the wisdom of his decision-making as a runner in the middle of the field. Blessed with excellent moves, Wilson must learn when to get downhill.
There are too many plays where Wilson will sacrifice the safe 5-7 yards for the possibility of a field-flipping gain that ends with him tackled for minimal yardage, at best. The NFL wants players who move the chains in these scenarios. The rest is a bonus as long as you don’t cost them first downs.
Don’t believe me? Marqise Lee, a heralded athlete capable of big plays at the catch point and as an open-field weapon learned the hard way when he was healthy enough to see the field. Big moments are easier to come by in college football with technical and conceptual flaws in your game.
Although not as exciting of a prospect, former USC running mate Robert Woods was the better all-around prospect. Once Woods found the right fit in the NFL he blossomed into one of the best all-around receivers in the truest sense of the position. Not all teams need their receivers to be five-tool players but the Rams sought Woods for this very reason.
If Wilson can’t address his clapping of the ball in specific scenarios, doesn’t mature as a runner in the middle of the field, and his press-release game proves too busy to bait patient and physical NFL corners, we might see a similar Woods-Lee outcome for Wilson-Olave.
I’m not banking on it because I believe Wilson is a better prospect than Lee but the criticisms above are understated weaknesses that will likely matter in most schemes if he doesn’t address them. In contrast, Olave’s game has a little less flash and a little more substance as a route runner, ballcarrier, and pass catcher.
One of the overlooked aspects of scouting wide receiver play in the public arena is tracking the football. It’s often assumed all receivers track the ball well when in fact, many receivers have specific targets where they have weak points with tracking.
Olave’s tracking is not only strong with the routes most expect a receiver to handle well but he’s also skilled with tracking difficult targets as well as making advanced decisions with the window he chooses to catch the ball.
Not much separates Olave and Wilson in my grading at this point. For teams, it will boil down to who fits best for their scheme and culture as well as which specific types of tools they want to emphasize in their offense.
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