If there were any questions surrounding Ja’Marr Chase and his preparation following an opt out of the 2020 LSU season, the circles were bolded and boxes were checked Wednesday.
Let’s turn back the clock to 2019 to Chase’s sophomore year. As a 19-year-old, Chase enjoyed as dominant a season a receiver has ever had—from any school, from any conference, in the history of college football. Comparingly, if Chase was able to declare as a sophomore, many believed he would have been a top-15 selection in the 2020 draft. He was that special.
His 21.2 yards per reception ranked first all-time among SEC wideouts, and his 1,700 receiving yards coupled with 20 scores ranked second all-time. Both totals, however, have since been broken by DeVonta Smith’s Heisman Trophy-winning campaign in 2020.
In a class with Smith, Jaylen Waddle, and Kyle Pitts as top-tier pass-catching talents that each could see their name called within the first dozen selections, Chase didn’t mince words when clarifying why he deserves to have his name called first among this year’s elite group of weapons.
“My game talks for itself,” Chase said. “My physicality, my speed, my game, my hands, everything I do is very well-rounded, and that’s what makes me stand out.”
Becoming the center of attention isn’t a hard thing to do at LSU. The spotlight, Chase says, is at its brightest due to the history of talent and pipeline that has earned LSU the nickname of “Wide Receiver U” among the NFL elite. In just two seasons, Chase competed for reps within an offensive game plan alongside the likes of Justin Jefferson, Terrace Marshall Jr., and running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who has developed into one of the league’s premier options out of the backfield within the high-flying offense that is the Kansas City Chiefs.
Chase has attributed the longevity of his success to staying within himself, a process he now looks to translate to the NFL level.
“I don’t really talk to a lot of the guys that played here that are now in the league,” Chase said. “Maybe Justin [Jefferson] or Jarvis Landry, but I don’t really talk to anybody in the league. I just stick to myself and do me.”
His decision to opt out wasn’t an easy one, especially after a CFP National Championship-winning campaign in 2019. Questions, Chase understood, arose about his desire to compete, despite his overall talent as a premier wideout in the college game.
“Watching those guys play games I know we were supposed to win was the hardest thing I had to deal with… sometimes I just had to turn it off."
As Pro Days conclude, numbers and comparisons become increasingly overwhelming for talents like Chase, who stressed the importance of the “eye test” when diving into his game as a potential featured wideout at the NFL level now a year removed from any game action. At 6-foot flat, Chase is a tad undersized when comparing his frame to the likes of Julio Jones or DeAndre Hopkins, both featured wideouts who proved dominant from the onset of their respective careers.
However, as the NFL continues to evolve, so does the evaluation process. Gone are the days of selecting players in hopes that the player fits into that franchise’s scheme. Today, it’s customized, and the draft has become scheme-specific where each organization’s scouting evaluations aren’t as comparable to the others. And sure, would you probably receive an outstanding return if you lined Chase, Smith, and Waddle in a room and blindly picked one of them, yes? But when you put Chase’s game under a microscope compared to the Smiths and Waddles of the class, he’s different. And how he fits within the Miami Dolphins’ offense is different from how he fits in the Cincinnati Bengals’.
Neither of the aforementioned two receivers play with Chase’s aggressiveness. And you’ll be hard-pressed to find another prospect on either side of the ball that competes with the fueling fire that he does paired with the astounding physicality he works with on the boundary. Additionally, Chase imposes his will on opposing defenders from the opening snap, and good luck if he gets by you.
His 4.38s 40 speed highlighted by elite footwork and a 41-inch vertical at 201 pounds presents a matchup nightmare at the next level simply unmatched within the class from the receiver position.
Following Wednesday’s showcase, Chase made it crystal clear the type of prospect teams will get at the next level.
“When you draft Ja’Marr Chase you’re getting a leader, and someone who’s going to work… you’re getting someone who’s trying to win championships.”