I am interested in Chris Olave, so it caught my eye last week when New Orleans coach Dennis Allen said he thinks Michael Thomas will be healthy for training camp. If Thomas is or isn’t playing, that will affect how often the Saints are going to their other Ohio State receiver.

Thomas missed half of the 2020 season and has hardly played at all the last two years. I would have thought he’d be ready to go at this point. Earlier in the offseason, he was recruiting Derek Carr. And he’s in a contract year, for whatever that’s worth. But Allen indicates Thomas underwent an additional surgery.

Olave played well enough as a rookie that he may be headed for a big season regardless. Typically when a receiver does the kind of things Olave did in his first season, it means he’s for real, and that he’ll be a productive guy going forward.

Consider the subset of players below. It shows the last 23 rookie wide receivers who’ve finished with top-30 numbers (using PPR scoring) but who haven’t finished in the top 20. So you’re getting the guys who’ve shown some promise, but I’m leaving out the unquestioned badasses like Justin Jefferson, Odell Beckham and JaMarr Chase.

In the chart below, you’re not seeing the solid rookie numbers for the players. You are instead seeing what they did in their second year.

Of those 23 wide receivers, three missed about half of their second season. But of the remaining 20, all but four of them moved up into the top 20 in scoring – 80 percent of them. (Tee Higgins ranked 23rd, while three others ranked between 31st and 38th.) In the chart below, the six who didn’t move into the top 20 are tagged with black dots.

These stats (which apply not only to Olave but also Garrett Wilson and Drake London) suggest we should all be paying attention to the possibility that these are among the key breakout players at the position.

2004Andre Johnson, Hou.167911426230.41866-976-4
2005• Lee Evans, Buff.16487437168.13248-843-9
2008Dwayne Bowe, K.C.168610227230.21670-995-5
2009DeSean Jackson, Phil.1562115612263.31062-912-4
2010Percy Harvin, Min.14718687212.51960-790-8
2010• Austin Collie, Ind.9586498170.93560-676-7
2012Julio Jones, Atl.1679119810261.81154-959-8
2012• Torrey Smith, Balt.16498558183.43150-841-7
2013T.Y. Hilton, Ind.168210835220.91950-861-8
2013• Justin Blackmon, Jac.429415176.49364-865-5
2015Jarvis Landry, Mia.1611011576275.5984-758-5
2015Jordan Matthews, Phil.16859978232.71667-872-8
2015Sammy Watkins, Buff.136010479218.82065-982-6
2016Amari Cooper, Oak.168311535232.31572-1070-6
2018• Cooper Kupp, LAR8405666135.15162-869-5
2020DK Metcalf, Sea.1683130310273.3758-900-7
2020A.J. Brown, Ten.1470107512249.51152-1051-9
2020Terry McLaurin, Was.158711184225.82058-919-7
2021CeeDee Lamb, Dall.167911026232.81974-935-7
2021Tee Higgins, Cin.147410916221.12367-908-6
2021• Chase Claypool, Pitt.15598602166.63862-873-11
2022Amon-Ra St. Brown, Det.1610611616267.6790-912-6
2022DeVonta Smith, Phil.179511967256.6964-916-5
2023Garrett Wilson, NYJ??????83-1103-4
2023Chris Olave, N.O.??????72-1042-4
2023Drake London, Atl.??????72-866-4

—Ian Allan