Rookie Rundown: WR Ja'Marr Chase, LSU

Rookie Rundown: WR Ja'Marr Chase, LSU

Fantasy Football Rookie Analysis

Rookie Rundown: WR Ja'Marr Chase, LSU

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Possessing otherworldly acceleration, former LSU Tigers wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase enters the 2021 NFL Draft as the consensus top player at his position, even after not playing a snap in 2020.

Chase opting out last year was a wise choice. He had nothing left to prove after a thoroughly dominant 2019 campaign that resulted in a national championship — a game in which he unleashed upon Clemson to the tune of 9-221-2.

The Tigers lost quarterback Joe Burrow, running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, and wide receiver Justin Jefferson to the NFL after Chase’s sophomore season, and there was only one direction likely for his career to head in 2020.

Height: 6-foot-0
Weight: 201 pounds
40 time: 4.38 seconds

The decision to sit out didn’t affect his draft stock, and Chase is pretty well guaranteed to be chosen in the first 10 picks. He will immediately upgrade a passing game’s vertical attack, and there’s really no system that he couldn’t find advantageous.

Table: Ja’Marr Chase NCAA stats (2018-19)

Year
School
Class
Gm*
Receiving
Rushing
Rec
Yds
Avg
TD
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
2018
LSU
FR
10
23
313
13.6
3
0
0
0
2019
LSU
SO
14
84
1,780
21.2
20
1
5
5
0
Career
107
2,093
19.6
23
1
5
5
0

*includes postseason/bowl games

As a true freshman, Chase contributed a trio of scores and set the tone for a monster season in 2019. The Biletnikoff Award winner as the nation’s top receiver set an SEC record for 20 receiving scores and 1,780 yards in his coming out party.

Pros

  • Unbelievable acceleration
  • Led all WRs in separation created in 2019, per NFL analyst Cynthia Frelund
  • Dangerous with the ball in his hands
  • Highly productive, competitive and a hard worker
  • Raw ability alone suggests Hall-of-Fame-caliber upside
  • Reliable hands — plucks the ball out of the air and dazzles with “wow” grabs
  • Tracks the ball over his shoulder as well as anyone
  • Understands how to help a quarterback under duress by coming back to the ball and also flagging to go deep
  • Extremely tough to stick with in one-on-one coverage
  • Will command defensive game planning if for no other reason than his speed
  • Destroyed top competition, especially Clemson in the 2019 championship
  • Still has room for growth in his game by fine-tuning some of the nuances
  • Can play all three levels of the route tree but excels down the field
  • Consistently showed nose for the end zone from anywhere on the field — eight touchdowns of at least 50 yards in 2019
  • Proportionally built frame with ample thickness and strength to play through feeble tackle attempts
  • Fast-to-act mitts — whether it be late catches or hand fighting with a defender
  • Contends with regularity in high-point situations

Cons

  • Sat out all of 2020 — could be rusty
  • How much did he benefit from Burrow, Jefferson and CEH alleviating pressure?
  • Stronger corners can press jam him at the line easier than you’d like to see from a WR1
  • LSU didn’t ask him to run overly complex routes
  • Plenty of rounded routes on film — oddly, it wasn’t a detriment to his productivity, but NFL cornerbacks can capitalize on the lack of attention to detail
  • Can become overly reliant on his athleticism

Fantasy football outlook

Draft placement will matter most for the Year 1 contributions of a player whose career path has all of the hallmarks of eventually being enshrined in Canton. He’s an elite prospect for long-term fantasy football use, which isn’t in doubt, but the question at hand: What can gamers expect from him in 2021?

We’ll pencil in quarterbacks for the first three picks, and no one is going to put up a strong argument otherwise. In this scenario, Atlanta is the fourth team on the board. Julio Jones is on the wrong side of 30 and battled injuries most of the 2020 season. Calvin Ridley developed into a true No. 1, Matt Ryan is getting long in the tooth as well, and the defense is littered with holes. There’s a stronger argument against Chase going to Atlanta than there is for his selection by the Falcons, but it’s the earliest he will come off the board.

The Cincinnati Bengals hold the No. 5 pick and lost wide receiver A.J. Green in free agency. There’s a greater need to protect Burrow than to provide another receiving target, but it’s understandable the quarterback will lobby his offensive-minded head coach to make a stink over drafting Burrow’s favorite target from 2019. It still seems unlikely to happen, though, with offensive tackle Penei Sewell staring them down with this pick.

Presuming Chase goes No. 6 overall, the Miami Dolphins would incorporate him into the offense with DeVante Parker and newcomer Will Fuller. The latter is more of a vertical threat than Parker, and it would create a situation that requires defenders to pick their poison for double teams. Chase to Miami appears to be the most logical landing spot.

It’s not an ideal way for Chase’s fantasy career to begin, since he’d be a cog in the machine rather than the machine itself, and he will get lost in the shuffle at times. Yet, with Fuller being fragile, suspended for the first game of the year and longer with another mishap, and on a one-year deal, this situation is favorable for grooming Chase toward a 2022 breakout.

Should he escape the first six selections, Detroit holds the No. 7 spot and is beyond desperate for a true No. 1 receiver. There’s no doubt Chase would be the top weapon in the passing game right away if he were to land in Motown.

No. 8 is owned by the Carolina Panthers, and while the team doesn’t have as strong of a need at receiver as it may on defense and the offensive line, Chase will be tempting to help show the trade for Sam Darnold wasn’t a mistake. Panthers offensive coordinator Joe Brady was the architect of LSU’s powerhouse offense in 2019, so we can quickly locate two influential people within the organization who will stump for Chase.

The Philadelphia Eagles hold the 12th pick, and Chase would be an immediate upgrade to the offense. He’d pair with last year’s first-round receiver in Jalen Reagor to create a formidable deep-threat tandem. This would be an immediate starting situation that offers a wealth of potential for a Rookie of the Year performance.

It’s hard to see him making it past the Lions, and unless an outside team trades into the top seven or so spots, Chase’s future employer is among those six teams listed.

For 2021 redraft leagues, Chase is a No. 3 fantasy target in the right opportunity, and there’s a good chance he becomes a weekly starter in no time.

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