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Who is… Ja’Marr Chase?

NFL Prospect Profiles #5 Ja’Marr Chase. I want to bring light to some of the guys that’ll be suiting up for your teams next season. Personally, draft night is my favourite night of the year. And that’s because I sit down with an understanding for a lot of the players who’s lives are about to change forever, and it helps me appreciate the deeper meaning of the NFL draft. It’s not simply, ‘who will the Dolphins select?’ and then once made clear turning the TV off and going to bed. It’s knowing what these guys went through to get to where they are, and enjoying the draft from start to finish as they achieve their lifelong dream. Disclaimer. I am not an NFL scout, these are simply my humble opinions on some of the talent heading to the league this year. I hope you’re enjoying the series!

Ja’Marr Chase – WR LSU

Everybody has forgotten, even if just a little bit, just how good this guy was in LSU’s unbelievable run to the National Championship. Chase made the decision prior to this season to forego the option to play, and focus on preparing himself for the NFL draft. Devonta Smith has certainly taken prime position as this years best receiver, but Ja’Marr Chase is best placed to challenge him to be first off the board at the position, and with good reason.

Background

Ja’Marr Chase’s recruitment was a little all over the place. He didn’t immediately land at LSU. Growing up in Louisiana it would have been the obvious choice, but the 4 star recruit was originally committed to Ole Miss. The Rebels however, were hit with sanctions that meant they couldn’t participate in bowl games for a couple of years, so he reopened his commitment. He then flipped over and committed to Florida, preparing himself to be a Gator. But then head coach Jim McElwain was fired, leading to multiple recruits de committing, something that’s common in college football following a change at head coach. When you’re a recruit, you build a relationship with the coaching staff, and the uncertainty of who might get the job next is unsettling. So after both of those commitments, Chase finally landed at LSU, his local college team. And what a ride it was…

The high school star and all state long jumper would go on to have quite the career at LSU

College

Ja’Marr Chase played in all 13 of LSU’s games in 2018, starting 7 of them. LSU went 10-3 in his first season with the team, while Chase repped in with the likes of Justin Jefferson, Derrick Dillon and Terrance Marshall Jr. Chase finished second among the receivers in receptions (23) and yards (313). At this point Joe Burrow hadn’t become what he was to be, and LSU didn’t throw the ball all too much. Justin Jefferson was the main target, racking up 54 receptions for 875 yards and 6 touchdowns, while Chase managed three tudders of his own.

But it all changed in 2019. LSU started the season ranked number 6, however Joe Burrow was not in the conversation as a high draft pick, nor one of the top 25 quarterbacks in the country. However, with the assistance of passing coordinator Joe Brady, who went on to take the offensive coordinator job with the Carolina Panthers, LSU’s offence became unstoppable. They were running NFL sets and tempo that defences simply couldn’t keep up with. And they began to bulldoze opponents.

LSU scored 40+ points in 12 of their 15 games in 2019. And we’re not talking cupcake opponents either. Okay, there’s your Georgia Southerns, which LSU dropped a 55-3 drubbing on to open the season, but they also scored 45 against Texas, 42 against Florida, 46 against Alabama, and 63(!!!) in the College football semi final against Oklahoma. All of which were ranked opponents.

All of this before finally making the National Championship game look fairly casual, belting Clemson and Trevor Lawrence 42-25.

And Ja’Marr Chase was a key contributor to the success of the offence, Joe Burrow, and the LSU Tigers.

At the age of 19, Chase was the leading receiver for the Tigers during the season. He’s 6’1, 200 pounds and can match up with just about anybody on your defence, and you’d fancy his chances. He caught 84 passes for 1,780 yards and 20(!!!) touchdowns. 20! Which set an SEC record for a single season total. His team mate Justin Jefferson was a close second, with 1,540 yards and 11 touchdowns to his name. The reason I bring this up, is because Justin Jefferson was drafted 22nd overall by the Minnesota Vikings, and has a very good chance to win the offensive rookie of the year award. So if he can be that good… Ja’Marr Chase has the chance to be just as good… if not better.

I will point out that the two are quite different. I would have Chase as a number one, outside receiver, where as Jefferson fits the role of a slot burner a little better. That being said, both are capable of doing it all, and Chase has done so on the big stage in college.

One thing I will point out, is that Chase has only had two seasons of college football to add to his resume. Obviously opting out of this season to prepare for the draft means Chase will have had plenty of time to work on his body, his technique and overall next level ability. I’m sure he would have declared immediately given the chance, but NFL rules state a player cannot be drafted until three years after their high school graduation.

Chase had one hell of a season, eclipsing the 100 yard mark 6 times, and hit over 200 yards another three times. This plus the enormous 20 touchdowns total led to Chase winning the Fred Biletnikoff award, which is awarded to college footballs best receiver each year.

Jan 13, 2020; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; LSU Tigers wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase (1) catches a touchdown pass against Clemson Tigers cornerback A.J. Terrell (8) second quarter in the College Football Playoff national championship game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Some will say that Ja’Marr Chase success is partly influenced by the perfect scenario. A quarterback who struggled to miss, and a coordinator fit for the pros, equalling an offence that couldn’t be stopped. They had everything they needed. A great line. Clyde Edwards-Helaire in the backfield, and Chase, Jefferson and contributions from receiver Terrance Marshall Jr and tight end Thaddeus Moss to add too.

But i’d say the opposite. Having such weapons allowed LSU to run the system the way they wanted to. And Chase was top of that list. His route running, hands and post catch ability to gain yards were on full display in 2019. I mean, just watch the highlights. He can track and come back for the ball, and does so in the below highlight film, making Alabama and now Dallas Cowboys DB Trevon Diggs look silly in the process.

Chase has the ability to lose you in the endzone Davante Adams style. But he can also catch a slant over the middle and take it 50 yards to the house Odell Beckham style. Some believe teams should have reservations as Ja’Marr Chase only has that one electric LSU season to go on. But I don’t believe that to be true. And you’d have to make the same argument for Joe Burrow, which made no difference as he was drafted number 1.

I’m excited to see Chase in the NFL, especially after what Joe Burrow and Justin Jefferson were able to do in their rookie seasons… but where does he fit?!

Draft?

I don’t see Ja’Marr falling out of the top 10. No chance. It’ll be close between him and Devonta Smith as to which receiver is selected first, but Chase is definitely a top 10 talent.

This choice depends largely on whether Penei Sewell is drafted ahead of them, but if he isn’t, I think the Bengals have to take him. They need significant help rebuilding their offensive line, and Sewell can play tackle opposite Jonah Williams for the long term. However. I think there’s a large chance Sewell might be gone, likely to the Dolphins, before Cincinnati get a chance. So for that reason I think reuniting Ja’Marr Chase with Joe Burrow makes a tonne of sense.

AJ Green looked a little exhausted this season, and he’ll be 33 in the summer. So Chase comes in as the long term replacement for the great AJ Green, and you pair him with Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins, who had a great rookie season himself this year. If Joe Mixon can stay healthy, and Burrow makes a full recovery, then the Bengals would have a great set of weapons for their young quarterback. They just need to fix that line!

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