Carolina Panthers: Ranking the top 6 WRs in the 2021 NFL Draft
Ja’Marr Chase – LSU
- Projected round – High-1st
- NFL Comparison – Dez Bryant
- Projected role – No. 1 receiver
Ja’Marr Chase burst onto the scene in 2019 and didn’t look back en route to a national championship alongside quarterback Joe Burrow. Hauling in almost 1,800 receiving yards and a truly impressive 20 touchdowns.
Chase is a physically gifted receiver at 6-foot and 208 pounds, using that size and strength to fight through and push around smaller defenders. Due to those physical attributes, he is also able to largely ignore the presence of those smaller corners on routes and just run right through them at times.
That physicality allows Chase to be unafraid of contact, whether that be from an incoming defender across the middle or lowering the shoulder to fight for a couple of extra yards.
The LSU star also has great hands and catches the contested ball with ease and uses almost pass rush like moves to get by defenders on the outside, swatting their arms away and ducking by them.
Chase’s football IQ is high, showing an impressive ability to look back to his quarterback and improvise ways to get open when a play breaks down. Never freezing up, providing a solid escape route.
Chase relies a bit too much on his physicality and looks to seek out contact on routes instead of trying to avoid it, running through defenders instead of around them. A lot of the time he just runs straight at the guy covering him.
That kind of toughness is something NFL teams love in a player but it comes with liabilities. Namely, tougher defenders. When Chase is lined up against a corner who can match his physicality he tends to struggle to get open and fight for the ball because he can’t just push them out of the way.
If Chase cannot use his power to get open, he lacks a big enough bag of moves to shake defenders off which is one reason why the majority of his catches are contested.
Another red flag to his game is that Chase can tend to get lazy with his routes if he knows that he isn’t the primary target on the given play, something that will need to be cleared out at the next level.
Dez Bryant was the steady big-bodied bully outside in Dallas for many years. Using his strength to get open and make spectacular contested catches and his IQ to never give up on his quarterback. While Chase may not have the same bag of route running tricks, with some development he could have a very similar career. Having physical gifts and improvability akin to the former Cowboy.
Chase is certainly a physically gifted player with all the attributes needed to succeed at the next level. However, we only got to see one good year out of him and that has the asterisk of playing alongside Burrow, with the pair potentially reuniting at the next level if the Cincinnati Bengals take him at No. 5.
If those stats in 2019 were more Chase and less Burrow then whichever team that grabs him will have a potential No. 1 target for years to come, but if it was more signal-caller than receiver then he could struggle at the next level.
If Chase does end up on the Bengals, it would improve the Carolina Panthers’ chances of landing stud left tackle Penei Sewell at No. 8 overall.