How well have the Saints’ first-round picks performed so far?

Kristen Wong
Chris Olave, Saints. (Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports)
Chris Olave, Saints. (Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports) /
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The New Orleans Saints paid a king’s ransom for 2022 first-rounders Chris Olave and Trevor Penning — two months in, how have the two rookies fared so far this offseason?

In the 2022 NFL Draft, the Saints checked two of their biggest boxes by acquiring a rookie wideout and offensive lineman, and hopes are high that both players will live up to expectations in 2022.

Former Ohio State wide receiver Chris Olave has reportedly been gelling well in the offense with Jameis Winston as both Olave and veteran Jarvis Landry produced some incredible plays in training.

ESPN’s Mike Triplett wrote this about Olave’s offseason development:

"Olave has looked the part throughout OTAs and minicamp practices, flashing his fluid route-running skills and big-play ability.“Smooth as the other side of the pillow,” quarterback Jameis Winston said. “Just real smooth. He can get in and out of breaks very well. Electric. And smart, man.”"

Olave could find himself vying for a WR1 role if Michael Thomas’ recovery doesn’t go as expected, so it’s a good sign that Olave is progressing well in Saints camp so far.

The young wideout is considered one of his class’ most refined route-runners with tremendous big-play ability, making him a tantalizing downfield target for Winston in 2022. Olave’s biggest obstacle this season will likely be making sure the pressure to perform doesn’t get to him, as the Saints did have to trade up to take him in the draft and will want to see immediate results.

Saints’ Chris Olave and Trevor Penning are developing nicely this offseason

As for fellow first-round teammate Trevor Penning, Triplett quoted NOLA’s O-line coach Doug Marrone on Penning’s progression:

"“Right now it’s very difficult to tell because we’re not really playing football,” offensive line coach Doug Marrone said. “But from a technical standpoint, he’s done a very good job as far as picking things up. And you can see that he’s hungry to learn, which is great.”"

In Penning, the Saints knew they were getting somewhat of a raw and unrefined talent, and there’s a good chance Penning may not start in Week 1. Penning has potential to turn into a long-term cornerstone piece on the offensive line, but veteran James Hurst currently has the edge in starting-caliber experience and playability.

The Northern Iowa tackle possesses all the physical traits crucial to his position (massive size, blazing speed, agility and footwork, etc.) and seems to have the mentality and competitive spirit to succeed as well.

Only time will tell if Olave and Penning can carve out a consistent starting role for themselves on the squad, with Olave probably having better odds than Penning to make a pivotal impact this season.

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Hopefully, the two rookies don’t crack under the weight of expectations in 2022 and find their footing in Year 1.

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