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Prospect Preview: Ja’Marr Chase

Prospect Preview: Ja’Marr Chase

Position: WRWeight: 200
College: LSUAge: 20
Height: 6′ 1″247 Rating: 4 Stars (0.9589)

By Nate Christian (@NateNFL)

The Rundown:

After a record season as Joe Burrow’s ($9,047,534) favorite target in 2019, Ja’Marr Chase decided to opt-out of the 2020 college football season to start his preparation for the NFL Draft. Some mysteries linger about his game after only a single breakout year, but the tape doesn’t lie, and Chase is arguably the best receiver in a talented and deep draft class.

College Production:

2019 was an incredible one year showing for Chase as a true sophomore. Next to future-first rounder Justin Jefferson ($$3,280,701) and another intriguing 2021 receiving prospect, Terrence Marshall Jr, Chase put up some absurd numbers. He caught 84 passes for 1780 yards, an impressive 21.2 yards per reception, and found the endzone 20 times! His statistics and impact for the LSU offense earned him the 2019 Fred Biletnikoff Award (awarded to the best receiver in the nation) as well as a consensus spot on the All-American team.

Strengths:

  • Strong Hands
    • When Chase gets his hands on the ball it is not often that it gets knocked out or dropped. A player who attacks the ball in the air, he’s constantly working back to the ball and not waiting for it to hit his chest before securing it. He’s adept at the back shoulder catch, reaching outside of his body, and bringing it in over his shoulder while running down the sideline. 
  • Consistently Wins 50/50 Balls
    • Perhaps the thing that sets Chase apart from most of the other receiver prospects in this class is his ability to consistently win down the field. When he gets moving down the field, he’s able to leverage his defender and get into position to have the first crack at the football. His vertical jump projects to measure at the top of the class and its obvious when you see him work above his defender and snatch the ball out of the air.
  • Physical at the Point of Attack
    • When facing press coverage Chase is not scared to attack the cornerback and push him back like a defensive lineman before disengaging and getting into his route. This makes him difficult to slow down and neutralize. Of course, NFL defenders are a bit stronger, but the SEC is full of NFL talent, and Chase showed us in 2019 that he was nearly unstoppable when full of confidence.

Weaknesses:

  • Not a Burner
    • Do not get me wrong, Chase can get down the field and make you pay, but he’s no Tyreek Hill ($18,000,000). His burst is solid coming out of the gate and his speed is enough to keep defenses honest, but in the NFL, he’s not going to be able to win consistently on Go routes on his own athleticism. To keep the defense guessing Chase will have to efficiently utilize more intermediate routes, such as Curls and Outs.
  • Inconsistent Route Running
    • The last point brings up the biggest question mark surrounding Chase, the consistency (and variety) of his route running. With the 2019 LSU team, Chase spent most of his time running down the field looking for the deep ball, but in the NFL, he will need to utilize the whole route tree to be a top wideout. I also noticed that sometimes you could tell when Chase was not one of the first reads on a play, he would come out of the gate without much determination, effectively taking himself out of the play.
  • One-Year of Production
    • As impressive as 2019 was for Chase it was still only one season. Many analysts would have liked to see him comeback and show another season of production and improvement, but the 2020 LSU team was a ghost of the 2019 champions and the choice to opt-out was likely the best decision for Chase, who has been a locked in first rounder for over a year now. As long as Chase has been working hard in training while missing the CFB season, there shouldn’t be too much worry about this issue though.

Things to Watch:

With Chase sitting out the entirety of the 2020 CFB season, it will be interesting to see how he starts marketing himself when draft season starts to kick into gear. In today’s age, a player’s media value can be a factor in their value to a franchise and Chase and his agent know that. The hype around Chase has certainly died down a bit since last year when he was an integral part of the National Champions, but with a couple workout videos and well-edited cuts to epic music, Chase can be back in the national spotlight.

The combine will be his big chance to show that he was making the most of his opt-out and he will be expected to come into the weekend at peak physical condition. On tape I see a 4.5 40-Yard Dash, so if he can get down into the 4.4’s that would be a sign of his hard work over the past year. His height will also be something to keep an eye on as he could measure anywhere from 5’ 11” to 6’ 1”, and he should weigh in somewhere between 200-210 pounds.

Projected Round/Contract:  

At this point we can project that Chase is nearly a lock to be a Top-20 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, pending an injury or a meltdown at the NFL Combine. Financially that means his rookie contract could look similar to Jerry Jeudy’s ($3,798,244). Jeudy signed a 4-year deal worth $15,192,974 after being selected 15th overall by the Denver Broncos. Also, as with all first-round picks, Chase’s contract will include a 5th-year club option for whatever team drafts him.

Team Fits:  

At the end of the day Chase is a player that could fit in any team’s offense and make an impact. At only six-foot he may seem a little small to be a prototypical X-receiver, but he plays bigger than his frame and can be a chain-mover for any team willing to throw the ball down the field. With his projected draft slot being early-mid 1st round, we can narrow down his landing spot to a couple different teams that will be looking for a new playmaker out wide.

One popular landing spot for Chase is the Miami Dolphins (who have two first rounders this year). Pairing Chase with Devante Parker ($7,625,000) and Preston Williams ($588,333) would give Tua Tagovailoa ($7,568,860) plenty of talent to help push the ball down the field.

Another popular team fit is the Detroit Lions who currently only have Quintez Cephus ($899,822) under contract for 2021. Kenny Golladay ($799,081) is set to become a free agent and with a new front office coming in, nobody knows what to expect. Chase could be given the chance to slot into a high-volume role if he finds himself in Detroit.

One more landing spot I’ll mention is the New England Patriots, a team that has a lot of questions moving forward. The quarterback situation is certainly a mystery, but if Bill Belichick looks to bring in a veteran such as Andy Dalton ($3,000,000) or even Sam Darnold ($7,561,929), grabbing a receiver with their first-round pick could be a great move to get them back in the playoff hunt. The Patriots offense has been hurting for a young weapon for a while and Chase would help any quarterback that ends up taking the snaps in Foxboro.

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