“Who dat?” Nation has been stuck in neutral since the retirement of future Hall of Fame QB Drew Brees following the 2020 season. The New Orleans Saints finished 2022 with a 7-10 record, which was good for 3rd place in the very beatable NFL South. That’s a step back from their 9-8 2021 season, but they will go into this year with a new signal caller that hopes to turn things around.
Derek Carr signed a 3-year, $121.5 million contract in March after the Raiders decided to part ways with him. Carr isn’t a QB that will intimidate defenses. What he does have is a proven track record as a solid starter in the league, which is something this team has lacked for the past two seasons.
The Saints had a top-10 defense in both points and yards allowed last season. They are just looking for a boost from the offense to push them into playoff contention. They hope that Carr is the right man to lead them, but he will need plenty of help from the guy this article will focus on: Chris Olave. The rookie wideout from Ohio State exploded onto the scene last season through tough circumstances. Let’s examine his 2022 performance and what we can expect from him this year.
Chris Olave 2023 Fantasy Football Outlook
Rookie Season Review
New Orleans drafted Chris Olave as the eleventh overall pick (third WR taken) in the 2022 draft. He had his share of supporters as a prospect, but most were surprised at how early he went. Olave was a senior declare who never eclipsed 1,000 yards in any of his seasons as a Buckeye, both of which were dings to his prospect profile. Despite the concerns, Olave had a phenomenal rookie campaign that earned him a spot on the Pro Football Writers Association (PFWA) All-Rookie team.
Olave’s final 2022 stat line came out to 72 receptions for 1,042 yards and 4 touchdowns over 15 games. That was good enough to be the WR25 in points per game. It took little time for Olave to show his ability as a deep threat. Especially at the start of the season, with Jameis Winston chucking his infamous YOLO balls up to him on a regular basis. Andy Dalton took over the starting role in Week 4, but Olave continued his rookie breakout. He’s the tenth rookie since 1967 to achieve 8.5+ yards per target on 110 targets or more. In addition, he was also Top 10 among all receivers in average depth of target, yards per route run, and total air yards (per PlayerProfiler).
List of WR's to meet the following criteria in 2022:
Vs. Single High
>25% Target Share
>3 Yards per Route Run
Vs. Two High:
>20% TGT Share
Give me all of the Olave please.
— Jordan Vanek (@JordanVanekDFS) June 7, 2023
As I mentioned earlier, there is a new quarterback under center in New Orleans this season. Derek Carr will likely never reach the elite status of QBs. He’s been known to produce high-end receivers in fantasy, though. His top wideouts over the past two seasons have had Top-12 finishes. Davante Adams in 2022 comes as no surprise, but you might have forgotten that Hunter Renfrow was the Raiders’ top receiver in 2021, finishing as the WR11.
Carr will also push the ball downfield more than Dalton did, another major plus for Olave’s fantasy outlook. In their careers, Carr averages 4.3 intended air yards per attempt versus just 2.6 in that category for Dalton (per Pro Football reference). If you combine all three of the Saints’ quarterbacks (including Taysom Hill), they averaged 233.5 passing yards per game and 7.8 yards per completion in 2022. In comparison, Carr has averaged 248 yards per game and 11 yards per completion for his career. Almost any way you want to look at it, Derek Carr will be a clear upgrade for this offense which means big things for Olave.
The Derek Carr to Chris Olave connection is going to be fun to watch 🔥pic.twitter.com/u4ENHtB1FI
— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) June 9, 2023
The Saints’ wide receiver room will look very similar to what we saw last season, with Michael Thomas hoping to stick around for longer than usual this time. Thomas has played in just ten games over the past three seasons and just recently turned 30 years old. While he still might have something left in the tank, I’d be shocked if he returned anything close to his prime form of dominance. Thomas’ presence will only help Olave’s growth and development. Defenses will have someone else to focus on underneath while he operates down the field. If Carr can avoid replicating the Russell Wilson disastrous transition to Denver, a Top-12 WR finish is absolutely on the table for Chris Olave in 2023.
A Look Inside the New Orleans Saints
Editor’s Note: We don’t want to leave you hanging on the rest of the team. While Drew focused on Chris Olave in fantasy football, here is a quick look at the other fantasy-relevant Bears written by Josh Hudson.
At this point, we know what Carr is. He’s a top-20 fantasy QB with top-15 upside. He’s good in Superflex/2-QB leagues and a fringe bye-week starter. His value lies in what he brings to his teammates.
Suspended or not suspended? That’s the real question. While a looming suspension for an incident in Las Vegas a couple of years ago sunk his ADP last year with no suspension levied, it’s doing the same thing this year. Entering his age-28 season, Kamara needs to get back to fewer overall touches to increase his efficiency. His yards/touch the last two years are the two lowest of his career, and he scored only four total touchdowns in 2022. Gross. But his ADP (RB30) lends itself to value with what we know Kamara is capable of.
After a career season, Williams arrives in New Orleans to take the proverbial “Mark Ingram role” in the Saints offense. Williams showed last year he can handle 200+ carries and score touchdowns at a high rate. But the Saints have Taysom Hill, who can do that just fine. Williams rode a career season to a new contract. Don’t fall for the trap.
Coaches are saying all the right things in regard to Kendre Miller. He can be a hammer for the offense. He can be an elite receiving option for the offense. He’s the perfect blend of what Kamara and Williams each provide. So either this is going to be a three-way committee with Taysom Hill stealing all the TDs, or a suspension and/or injuries vault Miller into RB2 territory. His ADP (RB53) is the perfect dart throw to find out.
We doing this again? Michael Thomas is almost four years removed from elite-level production. He’s played in ten games since 2020. TEN. While we got a nice flash from the first three games last year where Thomas scored three touchdowns, that was it. another 14 games missed. He’s going to be 30 and has been passed over in the pecking order by Olave. If he’s healthy, he’s a WR2 at best. I’m fine passing and not finding out.
Shaheed showed some big-play flashes last year and has the makings of a quality field stretcher opposite Chris Olave. He could easily be the 2nd target in this offense, especially with Michael Thomas’ inconsistent health. You’re not looking at a 100-target WR, but 15+ yards per reception can lead to sporadic boom weeks and a top-36 season when all is said and done.
Arguably my favorite option/value on the Saints team. He’s averaged over 12 yards per reception the last two seasons with 11 touchdown receptions. We’ve seen TEs produce in this offense over the years (Jimmy Graham and Jared Cook, to name a couple), and Derek Carr loved throwing to Darren Waller. The stars are aligning for this late-round TE to ascend to fantasy relevancy.
We will be covering every team this offseason. So check back here often for all of our A Look Inside articles.