By Dylan MacKinnon
Ja’Marr Chase didn’t play a snap in the 2020 College Football season, but he was still one of the most talked about prospects. He opted out from playing this year to focus on his pro career, because after only two years at LSU, he cemented himself as a top draft prospect. In 2019 he put up crazy numbers with Joe Burrow as his QB, on his way to helping LSU win a National Championship. He had 84 catches, 1780 yards, and 20 TDs. There is a reason so many people are mocking him to the Eagles.
“Great Speed, Great Hands”
The lack of big plays through the air has been the Eagles Achilles heel ever since they won the Super Bowl. They tried to address it by signing Desean Jackson, but he has played only 8 games across two seasons in Philly. They tried to address it with Jalen Reagor in the draft, but in his first season he never showed that game breaking ability the Eagles seek.
Chase meanwhile, is a big play machine. Eagles had only 7 TDs of 20 or more yards, but Chase averaged 21.2 yards a catch in his last season. In fact, despite not playing all of last year, he has the most 20+ yard TDs over the last two years.
Most 20+ yards TD catches over the past two seasons:— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) February 12, 2021
14 Ja’Marr Chase*
13 Dyami Brown
13 DeVonta Smith
*Didn’t play a snap in 2020 pic.twitter.com/nSUvd1yCI7
LSU Head Coach Ed Orgeron has talked about what makes Chase such a game breaker. “Ja’Marr has great speed, great hands, but he’s unusually strong for a wide receiver and competitive. I think that’s what makes him great.” Those comments came after the game vs Ole Miss, where he had 3 long TD catches.
And it’s not just speed that allows him to succeed. Chase has also attributed his physicality for all the yards he gets. “I’m a physical receiver. I like to put my head down, get the first down, fight for extra yards. That’s the type of receiver I am. It’s part of my game. It’s not something that I have to try to do. It’s something that I just do.”
“Comes To Work”
Before his decision to opt out, Ja’Marr Chase was becoming a leader of the team. Joe Burrow left for the draft, as did Justin Jefferson. It left a leadership vacuum Chase was ready and willing to fill. He never did fill it because with the pandemic and his status as a top draft prospect, he decided to not play. But the drive to be a leader and an example of a great locker room guy was there.
Orgeron said so himself in an interview with a local radio show on ESPN 104.5 in Baton Rouge.
“He’s been phenomenal. Ja’Marr is an excellent young man. He’s very humble. He doesn’t require a lot of attention. He’s not in the media a lot, he just comes to work. He’s a leader. They’ve had player-only practices on Saturday morning when I come to work at 10 o’clock, they running through red zone routes on offense. They are on their own out there and he’s the one that’s leading. He’s the one encouraging everybody.”
Big Game Player
There is no bigger game in College Football than the National Championship Game. Well when Chase took the field vs Clemson in the National Championship Game, he put on what might be his best career game. He had 9 catches, 221 yards, and 2 touchdowns. On top of that, his first touchdown was to tie the game. The 2nd touchdown was what was eventually the game winner.
Chase showed up when it mattered most. In fact, in 7 games vs ranked opponents that year, he had 860 yards, and 6 touchdowns. And being in the SEC meant he was competing against some of the best defensive backs in the nation, and he still produced.
What the Experts Say
“When it comes to hauling in jump balls, there is not a better receiver in the 2021 NFL Draft than Ja’Marr Chase. Chase couples excellent vertical athletic ability with uncanny body control and contortion ability, and he also has the coordination to use these traits effectively. Additionally, Chase possesses incredibly active, reliable hands, and he’s always in control of his motions in midair.”
“As I was studying Chase, I couldn’t help but notice how many quality cornerbacks he dominated last fall. The SEC is littered with NFL-caliber defensive backs, and he got the best of almost every single one. His competitiveness is off-the-charts impressive. He just refuses to give himself up. You never see him run out of bounds with the ball in his hands. He will lower his shoulder against defenders and, like most outstanding wide receivers, he can find another gear when he needs it. Once the ball goes up in the air, you can see him accelerate and separate. He’s a special, special talent.”
“The challenge forecasting Chase to the next level is we’ve only seen him find success with Burrow and offensive coordinator Joe Brady in 2019 when the environment was ripe to produce. Additionally, while Chase has good size and athleticism, those components aren’t elite traits that would be preferred for a wide receiver prospect selected high in the first round. With that said, his polish shined across those 14 games, where he showcased the makings of a dynamic No. 1 receiver in the NFL that has the skill set needed to produce at all levels of the field. Ideally, Chase would have a larger sample size of production to evaluate, but we’ve seen what he is capable of at his best and that is exciting.”
The experts agree, Chase is a special type of prospect. His measurables may not scream elite WR, but his tape and production do. The question will be if he is even there at 6. Bengals pick at 5 right before them. They may want to reunite Joe Burrow with his former college team mate. But if he’s there no one will blame the Eagles for sprinting to the podium to select him. The next question would be if both him and DeVonta Smith are still on the board, who do you take? Both had crazy levels of production. Both have great work ethics. ESPN’s Todd McShay has called them 1 and 1a, and its hard to argue with that.
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