NFL Draft 2021: 5 Things You Must Know about Ja'Marr Chase

Joe Schad
Palm Beach Post
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Tua Tagovailoa is consistently asked about receiver DeVonta Smith. With good reason, the Dolphins quarterback is highly complimentary of his former teammate.

The Dolphins will consider drafting Smith, the Heisman Trophy winner, with the sixth overall pick. Smith posted 1,856 yards for Alabama this season.

But the Dolphins will also closely examine Ja'Marr Chase of LSU.

LSU receiver Ja'Marr Chase, who opted out of this past season, hauls in a touchdown pass in the 2020 national championship game win over Clemson.

For an endorsement for Chase, we can easily turn to his former college quarterback, Joe Burrow, who now plays for the Bengals

"Ja'Marr's a really good player, it’s pretty easy to throw to him when he has five yards of separation every snap," Burrow said recently. "He’s an exciting player and a great guy and a friend as well. He was fun to play with."

Chase is out of our collective memory because he opted out this season. And it's easy to just project Smith to the Dolphins because of his established familiarity and chemistry with Tagovailoa.

But for Miami general manager Chris Grier and coach Brian Flores, a choice between the two — if it comes to that — will in no way be easy.

Scouts say Chase is strong and fast and runs good routes and has good hands. They say he attacks the ball and breaks tackles and makes people miss.

Chase can catch deep posts for long touchdowns and also take short slants for long touchdowns. He appears to be a complete receiver, including as a red-zone threat.

There are many people in NFL circles who believe Chase is going to play in multiple Pro Bowls and will even be one of the top receivers in the league.

Here are five things to know about Chase:

1. Chase was highly recruited in SEC and beyond

Chase was a five-star recruit from Harvey, Louisiana. He chose LSU over Auburn after previously leaning toward attending Ole Miss. He eliminated the Rebels when coach Hugh Freeze was let go amid an NCAA investigation.

Chase nearly committed to TCU. He also once committed to Florida but reneged on that after former coach Jim McElwain was let go.

One of the reasons Chase chose LSU was that coach Ed Orgeron and eight assistants pulled up to his house for an unexpected visit in a limousine bus shortly before national signing day.

More:Who could Miami Dolphins draft and what might they get for third overall pick?

2. Chase is remarkably athletic

Chase is 6-foot, 208 pounds, which is about 38 pounds heavier than Smith. Yes, Chase is strong and physical. But he's also very fast for his size.

Chase competed in track and field in high school and was a state champion long jumper. He has also excelled at baseball and basketball.

According to reports, Chase regularly dunked in high school and placed first in the state long jump without ever having competed in the event before.

In high school, Chase routinely demonstrated strength and toughness by playing through multiple injuries. He played running back in Pop Warner.

During Chase's sophomore season at LSU, Orgeron said one of the reasons Chase made such a big jump is he took a leap forward in his conditioning.

"Ja'Marr has great speed, great hands, but he's unusually strong for a wide receiver and competitive," Orgeron said in 2019. "I think that's what makes him great."

3. Chase's NFL comparisons include Dez Bryant

Chase has said he enjoys comparisons to former Cowboys standout Dez Bryant. He has also been compared to former 49er and Raven and Palm Beach native Anquan Boldin.

Because of his physicality, former Dolphin Jarvis Landry is among the receivers Chase was compared to during the recruiting process, including by Orgeron.

Chase has said that like Landry, he embraces the fight for extra yards. One thing about Chase is while he plays with fire, he does not appear to be the smack-talker Landry is. Coaches and players who have been around Chase describe him as confident but humble. 

Former NFL executive Louis Riddick, now an ESPN analyst, has continuously praised Chase's talent.

"Keep watching corners in this 2020 NFL Draft that matched up with #LSU WR Ja’Marr Chase and keep coming to the same conclusion — CHASE is a grown a$$ man!" Riddick tweeted. "He is so strong it’s ridiculous. And competitive. And has great hands. And great play speed."

More:DeVonta Smith declines weigh-in, would like to 'run it back' with Tua, Dolphins

4. Chase set SEC and LSU records

Chase has played only two college seasons, having opted out of the 2020 LSU season to prepare for the draft, amid COVID-19 related concerns.

Chase was going to change from jersey #1 to  #7 as a junior, an honor bestowed to LSU's best players and leaders. Among those who have worn the number are Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu and Grant Delpit.

As a sophomore, Chase was First-Team All-America. He set SEC records for touchdown catches (20) and receiving yards (1,780) and won the Biletnikoff Award, given annually to the nation's best receiver.

LSU won a national championship and in combining with Burrow, Chase posted nine receptions for 221 yards and two touchdowns in his final game.

Chase flourished in a passing offense coordinated by Joe Brady that was up-tempo, no-huddle with run-pass option.

"I throw it two yards across the line of scrimmage, and he runs for 80. I love that," Burrow said in 2019.

5. Scouts are divided on close call between Chase, Smith

Daniel Jeremiah of NFL Network ranks Chase behind only presumed top pick Trevor Lawrence of Clemson on his Top 50 list.

"Chase is a dominant player on tape," Jeremiah wrote. "He lined up both outside and in the slot at LSU. He defeats press coverage with a combination of foot quickness and upper-body strength. He creates separation off the line of scrimmage and he can also find another gear when the ball is in the air."

ESPN's Todd McShay ranks Chase fifth overall, one spot behind Smith.

"He is explosive off the line, a smooth route runner and tough in the open field," McShay wrote. "His body control stands out, and his speed is solid."

More:Schad: DeVonta Smith stellar, but let Chris Grier go through pre-draft process

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