Fantasy Football: The Saints Have Laid the Blueprint for a Massive Year From Chris Olave

Austin Swaim
Austin SwaimASwaim3
Fantasy Football: The Saints Have Laid the Blueprint for a Massive Year From Chris Olave

Without directly stating their intentions, businesses will tell you what they want to do. You just have to listen.

The New Orleans Saints are screaming from the hilltops about their intentions for their 2024 passing game while simultaneously not saying a word. They want to get the ball to Chris Olave. A lot.

New Orleans' cast of unreliable characters around Olave in 2023 has somehow seen a downgrade entering 2024. Michael Thomas somehow matched his 2021-22 total in games played (10) last season, but it wasn't enough availability to keep him in the team's plans. He's still a free agent.

Behind him, we saw Rashid Shaheed, Juwan Johnson, A.T. Perry, and Taysom Hill have moments, but none were week-to-week contributors. There is but one reliable, week-to-week contributor left on the outside: Olave.

However, we've seen numerous stud wideouts fall apart as their offense did. In Derek Carr's second season in NOLA, will the Saints use a top-shelf amount of volume in Olave's direction to maintain a relevant enough offense to let him be the steal of fantasy football drafts, or will the entire operation plummet to a point where we wish we passed on him?

Chris Olave Fantasy Football Outlook

The Leap from Good to Great

Room at the proverbial inn of top fantasy football wideouts is shrinking. Quickly.

As top quarterbacks and offenses seperate to produce potentially two wideouts closer to the top of the leaderboard than one from a bad offense, there are so many elite options that aren't just going to vanish. The top of drafts are loaded with perennial standouts like Justin Jefferson, Ja'Marr Chase, Amon-Ra St. Brown, CeeDee Lamb, and A.J. Brown. Then, most are looking at former top-10 picks and first-or-second-year players that have (or can) put up monstrous seasons like Garrett Wilson, Puka Nacua, Jaylen Waddle, and Drake London. You even have veteran suboptimal situations that are still stalwarts for 1,000 yards like Davante Adams, Mike Evans, and D.K. Metcalf. You'll be waiting a while in drafts before someone nabs Chris Olave, who is currently the WR18 in FanDuel's best-ball drafts with an average draft position (ADP) of 54.3.

I just don't get it.

Olave missed a game but was still the WR19 overall with 187.9 total half-PPR points. Plus, a lot of his indicators of fantasy points were even better; the former Ohio State Buckeyes standout was fourth in the NFL in air yards per game (114.4) behind only Jefferson, Evans, and Amari Cooper -- all three of whom enjoyed elite fantasy seasons on a per-game basis. Yet, he also wasn't just a home-run hitter, ranking 17th in the league at his position in target share (25.0%).

Most wideouts in Olave's draft range either get plus volume or downfield work -- not both. If you're wondering how his fantasy football season was such a disappointment getting such great work, you can look no further than the touchdown column. He was 45th in red zone target share among wideouts (18.5%) and scored just five times.

In terms of expected fantasy points per game, Olave's 13.3 in half PPR were 11th in the NFL and a significant upgrade over the actual mark (11.9). Some buffoonery is baked into the red zone attack of the Saints, so this isn't going to turn around entirely in one season. However, scoring a few more times -- while projected to see even more volume with Thomas out of the picture -- could be what pushes Olave into a second-round-caliber wide receiver that can be had well after the fourth.

Life with Derek

If you scour the list of names that I mentioned previously, the appeal for many is the quarterback throwing the ball.

I understand if that's not the case with Derek Carr. His red zone struggles make you want to pull your hair out, but Carr is still above the league's average at quarterback.

According to NFL's NextGenStats among full-time qualifiers, Carr was 14th in expected points added per drop back (0.02 EPA/db) -- ahead of Jalen Hurts, Geno Smith, Kyler Murray Joe Burrow in a down year. His average depth of target (8.0 aDOT) was also 11th among qualifiers, which combined with Olave's air yardage shows a willingness to chuck the ball deep like many quarterbacks just won't in 2023.

If we're already on board that Olave's talent and opportunity are good enough to bust into that second tier of wideouts, Carr also has a history of being able to sustain that sort of production from his top guy. In 2022, Carr propelled Davante Adams to the WR3 on a points-per-game basis (16.8). In 2021, Hunter Renfrow popped to the WR21 spot (12.1 FPPG in half PPR).

Unless you want to count a pair of interesting years from Michael Crabtree, it's not as if the Las Vegas Raiders gave him a ton of talent at the position otherwise. Adams was the one wideout in his statistical prime with top-shelf talent, and Carr delivered a top-five season. Olave (24 years old) might just now begin to fit that description.

Can Bottom of the Barrel Passing Attacks Still Produce Gems?

A quick rundown this upcoming season's rankings at wide receiver shows a trend mentioned earlier. Managers are flocking to players with elite offenses and quarterback play. If we're diagnosing whether or not Olave is a solid fourth-to-sixth-rounder, we need to examine his paths to failure -- other than injury.

One could absolutely be his offense's ability to score points. The Saints were numberFire's 11th-worst schedule-adjusted offense a year ago, and many behind them upgraded quarterback, perimeter talent, or a new coach. New Orleans did the third option, hiring Klint Kubiak from the San Francisco 49ers to take over for Pete Carmichael. Kubiak's last stop with a hand in playcalling, the 2022 Denver Broncos, didn't exactly light it up, so without major changes to personnel, it's hard to point the arrow up for NOLA's scoring unit.

By now, Olave's talent, role, and quarterback play (again reserved for injury) all meet the criteria to deliver him a solid fantasy season. The question for most is that, is if New Orleans bottoms out, is that when Olave flounders?

It's possible, but it's also not guaranteed.

The Cleveland Browns were nF's fourth-worst overall offense last season, and they delivered a WR17 season for Amari Cooper on the back of Cooper's aforementioned air yards. In 2022, the Carolina Panthers were nF's seventh-worst schedule-adjusted offense and got the top overall pick yet mustered a WR22 season for D.J. Moore behind 1,564 air yards that season.

With Carr at the helm, I just don't expect the Saints will be a bottom-five unit with one of the league's easier schedules, though. Even if they are, deep vertical passes on each throw have a lot of variance, but the regular accrual of them can actually save downfield receivers on some of the worst offenses in the entire league. Olave was -- and will be in 2024 -- that sort of threat, reducing the risk that he's not able to find a way to make an impact in fantasy football regardless of how good his offense is.

Chris Olave Fantasy Football Projection

numberFire's season-long fantasy football projections are a huge fan of selecting Chris Olave at his current ADP.

With its usual expectation of 17 games for all players, the model is expecting 95.6 catches on 151.1 targets, 1,212.7 receiving yards, and 7.0 touchdowns from the Saints wideout in 2024. That extrapolates to 162.6 half-PPR fantasy points and ranks as the WR13 within the projections.

FanDuel Sportsbook's receiving prop for Olave is set at 1050.5 yards at a -112 pick 'em on each side. Olave's over/under for touchdown passes is 5.5 with -124 odds toward the over. It would take a slight overperformance from 2023 (now without Thomas) to cash these marks -- assuming modest health. That seems reasonable from what we've covered so far.

Upon conclusion of research, Olave seems like a hidden gem in fantasy football drafts this season. There's not really any doubting the receiver's versatility or talent as he embarks upon a 2024 where he'll have the most clearly defined role of his young career. His quarterback has enough of a history of maintaining viability for top targets to trust him, too.

New Orleans' hire of Kubiak could put a rest to some of the Saints' red zone wackiness that regularly hurt both Olave and Alvin Kamara's fantasy production under Carmichael. There really isn't a true path to failure evident for Olave besides injury when it comes to -- at worst -- replicating his WR19 season from a year ago at a similar current ADP.

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The above author is a FanDuel employee and is not eligible to compete in public daily fantasy contests or place sports betting wagers on FanDuel. The advice provided by the author does not necessarily represent the views of FanDuel. Taking the author's advice will not guarantee a successful outcome. You should use your own judgment when participating in daily fantasy contests or placing sports wagers.