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Should you draft DeVonta Smith or Chris Olave in 2023: Fantasy Crossroads

NFL Fantasy



All summer long, I’m taking a look at the fantasy landscape heading into 2023 and helping drafters make some of the toughest decisions. If two players are close to one another in ADP, who should you choose? That’s the plan here. This is Fantasy Crossroads.


Our Fantasy Crossroads series continues with two of the best young wideouts in all of football.

In 2022, DeVonta Smith did what every special wide receiver does in their sophomore season – he broke out. Chris Olave, meanwhile, showed signs of being a true alpha during his rookie year and is looking to follow Smith’s footsteps entering his second year.

DeVonta Smith, WR, Philadelphia Eagles

The Case for DeVonta Smith

The addition of A.J. Brown wasn’t the only reason the Philadelphia Eagles passing attack took off in 2022…

DeVonta Smith enjoyed an impressive breakout campaign last season with 95 catches for 1,196 yards and seven touchdowns. He finished his sophomore campaign top 10 in snap share (91.7%), receptions (95), receiving yards (1,196) and fantasy points among wide receivers. We even saw him operate as Philadelphia’s WR1 down the stretch ahead of A.J. Brown. From Week 10 on, Smith averaged 9.2 targets, 6.1 receptions, 85.3 receiving yards and 17.9 PPR fantasy points per game. Brown, meanwhile, averaged 8.4 targets, 5.0 receptions, 86.4 receiving yards and 16.9 PPR points per game during that same span. Smith recorded four 100-yard games during that stretch and made plays all over the field, but especially against man coverage. 

<img src="https://d2y4ihze0bzr5g.cloudfront.net/source/2020/DeVonta_Smith.jpg" alt="

According to FTN Data, Smith posted an impressive 30.4% target share against man coverage last season (12th) and averaged 2.84 yards per route run (12th) and 1.91 fantasy points per target (9th) against the defense. As expected, the concerns regarding Smith’s frame coming into the league were completely overblown. He not only torched man coverage but did it while operating on the outside about 75% of the time this past season. He’s seemingly always on the field, too. He ran a route on 91% of Philadelphia’s pass plays, the seventh-highest rate in the league. And speaking of pass plays, with Jalen Hurts’ ascension, the Eagles threw the ball a bit more this season and ranked 10th in pass rate over expected.

The Case Against DeVonta Smith

Smith clearly emerged as one of the best young wideouts in the NFL last season and is going to be really good for a really long time. And while he’ll remain a huge part of a high-flying Philadelphia offense, it’s worth noting that the start of his tremendous production last year really came once tight end Dallas Goedert was sidelined with an injury. Goedert suffered a shoulder injury in Week 10 and kept him out of the lineup from Weeks 11-15. During that stretch, Smith averaged 8.4 targets, 5.0 receptions, 84 receiving yards and about 16 fantasy points per game. However, in Weeks 1-10 (with Goedert), Smith averaged 6.7 targets, 5.1 receptions, 55 receiving yards and just over 12 fantasy points per game. With Goedert so heavily involved, the tight end position saw little usage in his absence and combined for just 13 targets in the five games.


Chris Olave, WR, New Orleans Saints

The Case for Chris Olave

Chris Olave is coming off a successful rookie season in New Orleans where he hauled in 72 passes for 1,042 yards and four touchdowns. With Michael Thomas once again dealing with injury, Olave operated as the clear focal point of the Saints passing attack. As a rookie, Olave ranked 18th in target share (24.1%), fourth in air yards share (38.7%) and 12th in WOPR (weighted opportunity), which incorporates a combination of a player’s team target and air yards share. Olave made plenty of plays down the field as a rookie and ranked eighth in deep targets with 27. According to FTN Fantasy’s Player Utilization Tool, Olave’s 4.0 air yards per route run was the second-highest mark in all of football, behind only Atlanta’s Kyle Pitts. Olave displayed tremendous efficiency in his first NFL season and ranked seventh in yards per route run (2.42) and sixth in fantasy points per snap (0.33). 

Olave did all of this despite being a first-year player dealing with multiple changes at the quarterback position. The arrival of Derek Carr should provide a lot more stability to this entire Saints passing game. We saw Carr play with plenty of aggression during his final season with the Raiders where he attempted the fourth-most deep passes (78) and ranked fourth in average depth of target (9.7). 

The Case Against Chris Olave

Honestly, there’s only one way I could see Olave disappointing this season, especially at his elevated ADP. If, for the first time in years, Michael Thomas is able to stay on the football field, Olave’s production could take a hit. Thomas only played three games last season but looked good. He caught 16 passes on 22 targets for 171 yards and three touchdowns, two of which came against A.J. Terrell. Of course, Thomas has only played 10 games over the last three seasons, making it difficult to expect him to be out there for most of the 2023 campaign. But if he is, Olave could struggle to match his ADP, especially considering Dennis Allen and the Saints remain a run-first offense. In 2022, the Saints sported the eighth-highest rush rate in neutral-game scripts (49.4%) and ranked 22nd in early-down pass rate (48.2%).

The Verdict: Chris Olave

While I certainly like the Eagles offense more than the Saints offense, Olave actually gets the nod for me over Smith. Both players are two of the best young wideouts in the league and will flourish for the next 10-plus seasons. However, Olave has a slightly higher chance of becoming the unquestioned alpha of his team’s offense. We’ll see how many games Thomas plays this season, but in Philadelphia both A.J. Brown and Dallas Goedert are going to have huge roles on offense. I think it’s entirely possible we see production closer to what we saw from Smith during the weeks Goedert was active – which is good, but not top-12 good. In New Orleans, meanwhile, Thomas hasn’t been able to stay on the field, and Alvin Kamara could miss some time, leaving Olave as the clear focal point of the Saints offense.

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