So here we are at one of my favorite times of the year: draft season.
I love putting these players under a microscope and watching them flex their extraordinary talent on competition they outclass. Few if any embody that concept more than LSU’s latest and greatest receiver prospect, Ja’Marr Chase. He isn’t the tallest player but his height is more than adequate, with players shorter than he (Odell Beckham Jr is 5’11”, Antonio Brown is 5’10” ) going on to become superstars on the outside.
Chase also isn’t a burner like Tyreek Hill. LSU’s Pro Day times are a little friendly, so I suspect Chase’s 4.38 is actually around a 4.45, which is still very good. Players slower than him (DaVante Adams-4.56) have gone on to become superstars on the outside. Neither of those are weaknesses, and they are either insignificant to his game or—in the case of his height— compensated for with supreme ability and athleticism. That is where the non-freaky elements end. Let’s check out the freaky ones.
On this vertical route you can see how effective Ja’Marr Chase is against press. He is impossible to press due to insane strength and solid, but improvable technique. Here you see him widen his stance, interfere with the DBs ability to get his hands on him, and toss him aside. Great hole shot by the QB, he seems good too.
Here is an instance where the defender was able to get his hands on him. This is one area he can improve. Due to his absurd strength, he’ll sometimes not really care if a guy gets his hands on him at the line because he can do, well...this. He lets Trevon Diggs get his hands on him, but this gorgeous rip tosses him aside. Combine this power with more consistent hand technique at the NFL level (a very fixable thing) and he’s going to be just as un-pressable as he was in college.
Here he lets the DB get his hands on him again but absolutely bullies through him on the route. He is so strong that it just doesn’t matter if you get your hands on him. It might matter at the next level, but the strength here is unteachable. This is Noah Igbinoghene too, a first round pick last year. There are far more examples of his strength on tape, but essentially every time someone tried to press him they ended up off to the side or in the dirt.
Ability After The Catch/Speed
Above are a couple of instances of something Ja’Marr Chase is uniquely great at: breaking tackles. I have seen very few wide receivers who are this difficult to bring down.
Here we see his above average speed and ability to outrun angles. He isn’t Jaylen Waddle, but he is absolutely fast enough to both separate deep and bust plays open when he gets into some space. The second one features a gorgeous single move on the release that gets the DB leaning outside. Ja’Marr Chase is an absolute clinician on gaining inside leverage on slants against both press and off alignments.
That was extremely useful in the RPO game particularly, as LSU could call their X-glance RPO against any corner alignment. Normally you’d think to take that away by having the safety collapse into the box and have the corner man up on the X receiver.
That’s not an option with Chase.
He was also LSU’s primary vertical threat. Chase cooks the safety who would have had to turn earlier if he wanted a chance to carry the post.
This is where Ja’Marr Chase’s lack of overwhelming height is negated. The guy plays like he’s 6’5” and his insane 41-inch vertical leap backs up what we see on tape. The second clip shows a gorgeous stop and start double move that exemplifies his suddenness and agility. This is the go-to move in his repertoire for generating separation deep if he doesn’t have vertical leverage off the release.
The guy spent the entire 2019 season killing people at the catch point.
Ja’Marr Chase is a complete receiver. He is freakishly strong, incredibly athletic, and has absurd ball skills. Don’t forget, he did all of this at 19. There is rightfully little question about who the first receiver off the board will be, even despite sitting out a year where the guy behind him won the Heisman. That’s how good Chase is. He is the best receiver prospect to ever come out of LSU, and if this quarterback class weren’t so loaded, he’d go in the top-3. Instead he may have to settle going fifth overall and reuniting with Joe Burrow in Cincinnati. I’m sure that tears them up inside.