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Chris Olave could've gone in the top two rounds had he left for the NFL Draft. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Ohio State Football

Chris Olave return means fewer Buckeyes in top-two rounds of NFL Draft

COLUMBUS — Chris Olave isn’t miffed by his decision to return to Ohio State.

The Ohio State star wide receiver had the option to declare for the NFL Draft after the Buckeyes loss to Alabama. It seemed like he would go that route, especially after redeeming himself with a win over Clemson in the College Football Playoff semifinals. Ohio State was even preparing to lose him; NFL Draft experts saw Olave going as high as the first round.

But that’s not what he did. Instead, Olave announced in late January he’d be returning to Columbus for another season. He didn’t return because scouts told him he couldn’t be successful at the next level. No, beating Clemson wasn’t enough — he wants a national championship.

Speaking for the first time since making his decision ahead of Saturday’s Spring Game at Ohio State, the first-team All-Big Ten wideout had a laundry list of items he knows he can improve on in before taking his talents to the NFL.

“I feel like I needed to work on some things so I came back to get in the weight room more and get a lot stronger, turn into a more complete receiver so I can be ready Week One when I go to the NFL,” Olave said on Thursday.

Chris Olave-Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State football

Ohio State wide receiver Chris Olave redeemed himself in the Sugar Bowl. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

While Olave is spending another season at Ohio State, his former quarterback, Justin Fields, is moving up and down mock draft boards. In ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr.’s latest mock draft, Fields is projected to be picked by the New England Patriots with the No. 10 overall pick via a trade with the Dallas Cowboys.

More importantly, Fields is the only Buckeyes product selected in the top two rounds by Kiper’s forecast. Even thought it wasn’t held due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ohio State had 14 former players invited to this year’s NFL Combine — the most of any school.

In the last three NFL drafts, Ohio State’s seen seven former players picked in the first round alone.

So, what’s the difference this year? Why is Fields¬†the only one projected to go in the top two rounds?

Mainly because Chris Olave decided to come back to Columbus for another go at a national championship.

“Well [Chris] Olave went back,” Kiper said on a conference call on Thursday. “Chris Olave would’ve gone pretty high. And Chris Olave went back for another year. And certainly Thayer Munford went back for another year as well and [Haskell] Garrett, defense tackle, went back for another year. So, you had that also happened. … Chris Olave decided to go back.”

Kiper’s hypothesis about the impact of Olave’s return is fascinating.

If draft gurus such as Kiper were ready to deem Olave a first-round pick after 2020, think about how high he might go if he does mature into the Week One starter he wants to become this fall. If he can get stronger in the weight room with Mickey Marotti and fine-tune his route running with Brian Hartline, he can have the special season that could slingshot him into a top-20 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.

Think about that.

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