METAIRIE, La. — The New Orleans Saints, aptly, became the first team to be traded in this year’s NFL Draft, moving from No. 16 to No. 11 on Thursday to select Ohio State wide receiver Chris Olev.
The Washington Commanders received a third round selection (Number 98) and a fourth round selection (Number 120), while five places went down. The Saints have now traded a staggering 24 times in the past 16 drafts, including their move to take the 16th pick from the Philadelphia Eagles earlier this month. New Orleans also have a 19th pick in Round 1.
Meanwhile, the Saints haven’t traded since 2007.
“For us, this is an opportunity to get another good player a year ahead of time,” Saints general manager Mickey Loomis said of the trade during their predraft news conference.
The receiver was a vital requirement for the Saints after finishing 32nd in the NFL in the passing offense last year. Much of this was because receiver Michael Thomas missed the entire season due to an ankle injury and quarterback Jameis Winston tore his ACL in Week 8. Still, they needed to add at least one more premium pass-catcher – and got aggressive in doing so.
“Chris was someone we coveted from the very beginning of this draft process,” said Saints coach Dennis Allen. “And then of course as the draft went on, we were like, ‘Ah, there could be a run on these receivers here very soon. So instead of sitting down to see if the guy comes up to us, we’re going to get the guy we wanted.”
The saints were right. A total of six receivers are being selected between picks 10 and 18.
“I thought there were some good receivers in this draft,” Allen said. “But he’s the only guy I felt like, ‘Man I know what I find in this player. Our kind of guy, tough, smart, competitive, highly polished. One of the better route runners I thought was. highly productive. Really nice hands. I felt like the most well-rounded receiver in the draft.”
Allen also said that, “We’ve had a lot of success with the Ohio State players.”
Sure enough, Olev is now the ninth Ohio State player drafted by the Saints in 2003 as Loomis’ general manager and fourth first rounder.
Olev (6-foot, 187 pounds) caught 65 passes for 936 yards and 13 touchdowns as a senior in 2021 — and caught 32 TD passes in his last 33 college games.
The Saints have insisted they do not plan to rebuild under new coach Dennis Allen and hope to score another playoff run after barely missing 9-8 during last year’s injury-ridden season. Plus, he’s shown rare restraint with his free-agent spending, when he started the office at around $75 million over the salary limit. Having two first-round picks this year allows them to add impact players at an affordable price.
While Washington really liked Olev, it was comfortable being traded back to select Penn State receiver Jahn Dotson. He said he was watching the Phoenix-New Orleans NBA playoff game on his phone when he got a call from Washington coach Ron Rivera. Dotson said he was surprised to be ranked 16th overall.
“We were thinking later first or early second,” Dotson said.
But Washington has long liked Dotson, always placing him in his top four receiver goals in the first round.
ESPN’s John Keam contributed to this report.