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New Orleans Saints first-round pick Chris Olave built strong list of dos, don'ts

'I think you have a full, complete player'


Brian Hartline can rattle off the dos as quickly as anyone.

But ask him about receiver Chris Olave, the first of the New Orleans Saints' two first-round draft picks in the 2022 NFL Draft, and Hartline – Olave's receivers coach at Ohio State from 2018-21 – is just as interested in checking off the don'ts for the No. 11 overall pick.

"Sometimes the best way to describe somebody is not what they can do, but what they don't do," said Hartline, who this season ascended to the role of passing game coordinator and receivers coach at Ohio State. "And frankly, there's really nothing Chris can't do. So that kind of sums it up.

"It's not about what is he great at – he's great at playing football. It didn't really matter the job description. His high-point ability is great, ball tracking on the field is great, his route running ability is great. Over and over again, you're going to find a lot of things he can do. Outside of bringing him into the box and blocking (Hall of Fame linebacker) Ray Lewis, that's probably the one thing he wouldn't do well.

"But outside of that, I think you have a full, complete player."

That player finished his Ohio State career with 176 catches for 2,711 yards and 36 touchdowns, including 65 catches for 936 yards and 13 touchdowns as a senior. And he became the latest Ohio State addition to the Saints' roster, which includes receiver Michael Thomas, cornerbacks Marshon Lattimore and Bradley Roby, linebacker Pete Werner and tight end Nick Vannett.

"They told me in the process they love the Buckeyes," Olave said. "I knew it was going to be a good fit for me, playing alongside Mike Thomas. I'm glad they've got that pipeline going."

New Orleans traded up in the draft, from No. 18, in order to select Olave. Executive Vice President/General Manager Mickey Loomis said that simply followed a mantra: "You find somebody that you love and you go get him."

While Hartline touted Olave's completeness, a separator from other receivers in his draft class was his elite route running ability. And Hartline, a fourth-round pick in 2009 who spent seven seasons in the NFL (six with Miami, one with Cleveland), knows one when he sees one.

"A great route runner is nothing more than making people believe you're doing something else before you do what you want to do," Hartline said. "Body language is really important. A defensive back watching you run off the ball and him not being able to tell what you're going to do, is really dangerous. And that's something Chris does at an elite level.

"His body language is off the charts; it's clean. The quarterback can be very certain on what you know that he's going to be doing. He's a very exact ballplayer, he wants to be in certain spots and certain locations in an exact way. All of those things combined provide great route runners.

"He has a great feel for the game. He knows where the fat of the zone is, he knows how to find it, he understands timing, where you need to be at this amount of time. You put those all together, I think that's where he becomes a great route runner."

Olave said he puts in the work in order to excel in that area.

"A lot of film study, a lot of individual work, just extra work," he said. "Just trying to set my tempo and change my tempo up on my routes. It's a lot of different things that I do, watch a lot of film on different players.

"I feel like I have a lot of strengths to my game. I feel like just being a complete receiver – I can do a lot of things. You can plug me in the slot or outside, I just want to make plays at the end of the day."

That attitude syncs with what Hartline knows of Olave, who could have entered the 2021 draft, but chose to return to Ohio State for another season.

"The biggest I can't say enough about Chris is, there are so many guys out there – not saying it's right or wrong – that may leave a little too early sometimes," Hartline said. "And then those guys take a lot of slack for it from media or public perception. And Chris is the exact opposite.

"He is a guy that could have went out his third year, could have been a first-round pick, maybe not as high as 11. But he came back to develop more, to be a college graduate, to be a captain and now look where it all ended up.

"The road he took was probably not the biggest. 'You weren't a three-and-out guy. You weren't a guy that was in a rush to get to the NFL and chase the money.' He was chasing some intangibles and things that, I think in the long run…I think he just did it the right way."


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