The 2021 NFL Draft is just eight weeks away, and a few days ago we kicked off our prospect profiles with Florida TE Kyle Pitts. At six overall it’s fair to say the Eagles are in play for pretty much every player not named Trevor Lawrence, and while there are some needs that are more clear than others, the front office is likely looking for the best player available (BPA).
In our second player profile of the NFL Draft season, we’ll be covering LSU WR Ja’Marr Chase.
Chase is someone who‘s likely well-known to most Eagles fans, as he’s been ranked WR1 on the 2021 Draft board for a good 15 months now (though DeVonta Smith has made a strong claim for that tag). Of course, Chase chose to sit out the 2020 season—not unlike many players atop of this class—and let his 2019 tape and numbers (84 catches, 1,780 yards, 20 TDs) do the talking.
A month ago I included Chase as the 4th best prospect in the class on my 2021 Big Board (Top-30), and here’s what I wrote then:
“If it weren’t for [DeVonta] Smith’s Heisman campaign we’d all be drooling at Chase instead. Similar to Smith, he’s actually underwhelming physically compared to a typical top-10 WR, but elite leaping ability and explosive burst allows him to play above the rim and separate out of breaks with ease. [Some] scouts [might] fade Chase as a benefactor of LSU’s historic 2019 offense, but that analysis doesn’t hold up on tape.”
Chase is an average 6’1” 210 lbs., and doesn’t have top-end speed, but his elite leaping ability mentioned above, combined with impressive upper body strength allows him to play like he’s 6’3”+ (and it certainly looks that way on field). Where he’s just average in terms of long-speed, he possesses elite change-of-direction skills and burst out of his breaks. Pair all that with polished route-running technique and you begin to see a skillset that would make most current NFL wideouts blush.
While the above traits are what allow Chase to stand out physically and dominate on Saturdays, there’s another level of maturity/IQ to his game that should allow him to translate his production to Sundays without missing a beat. For one, Chase has the technique (both feet and hand) to release from press coverage on the LoS, has an advanced understanding of how to create leverage to pressure DBs, find body position, and other nuances of winning when he isn’t able to overwhelm coverage physically.
The fundamentals mentioned above allow Chase to be “NFL open” at all times, and we see him and Burrow connect in these sort of throws routinely on tape. He wasn’t constantly streaking wide open, he was winning even without separation, and in NFL windows too. The reasons some people may fade him (byproduct of a successful LSU offense) should actually work in his favor—he opened up the offense to throws that would normally be considered “low percentage” at the college level.
Beyond the already discussed leaping ability and upper body strength, Chase is able to dominate down field and in 50/50 situation with his ability to adjust to the football—which speaks to the level of control he plays with throughout his routes. He’s a natural climbing back to the ball, elevating, and working through/across DBs to turn poorly thrown balls into an advantage. Throw in a pair of sure-fire hands and it’s pretty hard to knock this prospect.
Ultimately, Chase is one of a few players who I believe didn’t hurt their stock by sitting out the 2020 college season, that’s how impressive the 2019 tape is. If there are any lingering doubts about him as a prospect, I’ll reference anyone to the Alabama game from that season—where he worked in coverage, and often won against Trevon Diggs and Patrick Surtain—as hard proof of his ability to translate his production to Sundays.
Whether or not the Eagles front office decided to go BPA or target a specific need, we can be sure Chase in on their short-list of targets.
The wide receiver position has plagued this offense for a few seasons now, and regardless of who is under center in 2021, the Eagles need to upgrade at the position. Chase is scheme versatile, capable of lining up all over the field and filling a number of different responsibilities in an offense. If you’re wondering where the “weaknesses” section of this player profile begins, the truth is, he doesn’t really have any.