Ja'Marr Chase LSU

Scouting the 2021 NFL Draft: Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU

June 23, 2020

The 2021 NFL draft will once again offer the league an abundance of riches at wide receiver.  As many as five pass-catchers will begin the season hovering in or around the first-round conversation, led by LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase.

Chase, who stands an estimated 6’0 and 208 pounds, is a physical and explosive player who routinely bullies opposing cornerbacks on film. His frame is NFL-ready; he’s a thick dude whose powerful release is near-impossible to knock off course in press coverage. It’s that frame that also helps him win contested catches. Despite Joe Burrow’s sky-high final grade last year, he wasn’t always perfect with his ball placement when targeting Chase. It didn’t matter; even when he’s covered, Chase is open.

Chase is a well-schooled route-runner, too. Sure, he rounds off his breaks and will rely on his top-shelf physical ability instead of a more nuanced approach at times, but there are few prospects who offer the kind of compact and next-level explosiveness as well as elite body control and field awareness that Chase has. Both of those traits are on display in his routes. The fact he has room to improve his craft is a scary thought.

Chase reminds me of Dez Bryant, the former Cowboys playmaker who used his plus-frame and athleticism to win at a high level in the NFL. Bryant was a bigger prospect than Chase (about two inches taller and 16 pounds heavier), but his on-field movement skills and approach to the position — the ‘my-ball mentality’ — are very similar. And remember: Chase just turned 20 years old in March. He’ll continue filling out his frame and could top out around 215 pounds (if not heavier).

Is Chase the premier offensive skill player in the 2021 NFL Draft? It certainly feels that way right now. Clemson running back Travis Etienne is close, but with a higher value placed on wide receivers, it’s likely that Chase ends up the preferred prospect early in Round 1.

Here’s the rub: Chase will have to work to hold onto the WR1 ranking. Alabama’s Jaylen Waddle is electrifying and Minnesota’s Rashod Bateman can do it all. Chase is ahead of both of them right now, but if he regresses in life after Burrow, the door will swing wide open for someone else at the position to leapfrog him. And this isn’t an indictment against Chase. It isn’t meant to suggest he’s capable of regressing to the point where he’s no longer a first-round prospect. Instead, it’s proof of how talented this year’s wide receivers are.

In a normal draft year, Chase would run wire to wire as the No. 1 receiver in the class. Fortunately for NFL draft fans, there’s enough competition to challenge him during the 2020 college season.

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