2021 NFL Draft: Ja’Marr Chase is a rare wide receiver prospect

The Cincinnati Bengals select Ja'Marr Chase in the first round of this 2021 NFL mock draft (Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images)
The Cincinnati Bengals select Ja'Marr Chase in the first round of this 2021 NFL mock draft (Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images) /

Ja’Marr Chase is one of the best wide receiver prospects in the 2021 NFL Draft

The 2020 NFL Draft featured an extremely strong wide receiver class, including first-year standouts CeeDee Lamb, Justin Jefferson, and Chase Claypool along with many other talented wideouts. This wide receiver class was remarkable and had a plethora of special talents, however, the 2021 NFL Draft features a potential superstar who just might be better than any receiver selected in last year’s draft. That player is LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase.

His rise to stardom began during the 2019-2020 college football season. Put simply, the LSU Tigers dominated college football that year. They went undefeated with arguably the best roster in the college football playoff era, and they finished the season with a national championship victory over Trevor Lawrence and the Clemson Tigers.

It was a wonderful year for the Tigers as they took over the college football world with their high powered offense. Joe Burrow‘s evolution into a superstar quarterback was the biggest reason for their offensive explosion, but other players on their offense played a big role in this as well. Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Justin Jefferson quickly come to mind as they were both selected in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft, but Chase stood above the rest as their best offensive weapon.

Unfortunately for college football fans, Chase elected to opt-out of the 2020-21 season to focus on the 2021 NFL Draft. Despite not playing a down this season, Chase is widely considered to be the best receiver in this year’s draft class.

Unlike some other players who opted out of this year’s college football season, He didn’t need another season to prove he’s one of the best prospects in the upcoming draft. His 2019 film and production is more than enough for him to be a very high draft pick.

Words can’t describe how impressive Chase’s 2019-2020 season was. To say his production was impressive would be a massive understatement. That season, he recorded 84 receptions, 1,780 receiving yards (13th all-time), and 20 receiving touchdowns (9th all-time). His 2019-2020 season was one of the best seasons in college football history for a wide receiver.

When you look at some of the best wide receivers in the NFL, a lot of them have elite physical tools. Julio Jones is 6-foot-3 and has elite speed, Tyreek Hill is one of, if not the, fastest players in the entire league and Mike Evans is 6-foot-5 and ran a 4.53 forty yard dash coming out of college. Outlier size and athleticism aren’t a necessity to succeed at the wide receiver position, but they do elevate players’ potential and make them more dangerous than those who lack these tools.

Standing at 6-foot-1 and weighing 200 pounds, Ja’Marr Chase lacks the height and weight that makes Julio Jones and Mike Evans a nightmare to cover, but he does have elite speed. According to Bleacher Report, Ja’Marr Chase ran a 4.4 forty yard dash sometime this year. That number is impressive, but when you consider the fact that he ran a 4.66 forty yard dash in high school, you realize how incredible it truly is. His drastically improved forty-yard dash time is a testament to his work ethic.

Chase speed makes him extremely dangerous as a deep threat since many cornerbacks simply don’t have the athleticism to keep up with him on vertical routes, but it also makes him a nightmare in the open field. He doesn’t move with the same fluidity that CeeDee Lamb and Justin Jefferson did in college, so he won’t make defenders miss tackles with impressive elusiveness. However, he can still create big plays in the open field with his speed.

Specific plays where this 2021 NFL Draft prospect shines

On first and 10 with 8:46 left in the first quarter against Vanderbilt, LSU tried to spread out the defense with a five-wide shotgun formation. Ja’Marr Chase was lined up as the number two receiver on the right side of the formation and ran a shallow post. Chase caught the ball in a soft spot in Vanderbilt’s zone coverage and turned what should’ve been a nineteen-yard reception into a sixty-four-yard touchdown.

Chase’s athleticism doesn’t stop with his speed as he’s also phenomenal at coming down with the football in 50/50 situations. He may have an average frame in terms of NFL wide receivers, but he makes contested catches like he’s 6’3 and weighs 220 lbs. Having a receiver like Chase will make an offense extremely dangerous since he can make plays in tight coverage.

Receivers with this kind of playstyle and athletic ability usually have stiff hips and aren’t fluid route runners, but that isn’t the case with Chase. He utilizes a variety of releases off the line of scrimmage and he excels at running slants and out routes. Similar to Denzel Mims last year, Chase isn’t afraid to get physical and he often uses his arms to push defenders away from him to create separation.

There’s one play against Texas that is the quintessential “Ja’Marr Chase play.”

On 1st and 15 with 6:51 left in the first quarter, Chase was on an island with a corner lined up like he was playing press-man coverage. However, the corner opened up his hips to the sideline and gave him a free release. Chase took a few steps, dipped his shoulders and chopped his feet to sell the double move, then ran full speed up the field with a few yards separating him and the corner.

The play didn’t stop here, though. Despite the separation between Chase and the cornerback, Joe Burrow underthrew his target and forced him to make a very difficult catch. He did just that and came down with the ball for a thirty-eight yard gain.

Ja’Marr Chase has everything you want in a number one receiver. He has the size, speed, physicality, skill as a route runner, and reliable hands. In the NFL, he’ll primarily line up on the outside, but he can play inside as well and attack all three levels of the field.

Next. Under-the-radar first-round prospects. dark

Missing the 2021 season would be an issue for most prospects, but Chase’s film was so good in 2019 that it shouldn’t affect his draft stock. His physical tools combined with his skill as a route runner make him one of the best wide receiver prospects in a very long time and one of the best overall prospects in the 2021 NFL Draft.