METAIRIE, La. — The New Orleans Saints, fittingly, became the first team to trade up in this year’s NFL draft by moving up from No. 16 to No. 11 to select Ohio State wide receiver Chris Olave on Thursday.
The Washington Commanders received a third-round pick (No. 98) and a fourth-round selection (No. 120) while moving down five spots. The Saints have now traded up a staggering 24 times in the past 16 drafts, including their move earlier this month to acquire the 16th pick from the Philadelphia Eagles. New Orleans also holds the 19th pick in Round 1.
Meanwhile, the Saints haven’t traded down since 2007.
“For us, it’s an opportunity to get another good player a year ahead of time,” Saints general manager Mickey Loomis said of the trade during his predraft news conference.
Receiver was a glaring need for the Saints after they finished 32nd in the NFL in passing offense last year. Much of that was because receiver Michael Thomas missed the entire season with 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.
Olave (6-foot, 187 pounds) caught 65 passes for 936 yards and 13 touchdowns as a senior in 2021 — and caught 32 TD passes over his final 33 college games.
The Saints have insisted that they don’t plan to rebuild under new coach Dennis Allen and that they expect to make another playoff run after barely missing out at 9-8 during last year’s injury-plagued season. At the same time, they have shown rare restraint with their free-agent spending after beginning the offseason about $75 million over the salary cap. Having two first-round picks this year allows them to add impact players at an affordable price.
While Washington really liked Olave, it was comfortable trading back to select Penn State receiver Jahan Dotson. He said he was watching the Phoenix-New Orleans NBA playoff game on his phone when he got the call from Washington coach Ron Rivera. Dotson said he was surprised to go 16th overall.
“We were thinking later first or early second,” Dotson said.
But Washington has long liked Dotson, always placing him among their top four receiver targets in the first round.
ESPN’s John Keim contributed to this report.