Just under a year ago, the LSU Tigers were dominating college football, with their star QB Joe Burrow leading the way to an NCAA title. Part of that exceptional offensive success was WR Ja’Marr Chase, who was one of Burrow’s favorite targets. Now, he is earning recognition ahead of the 2021 NFL Draft.
The sophomore wideout had team-highs in receiving yards (1,780), touchdowns (20), and yards per reception (21.2), as well as finishing second on the team with 84 catches.
Chase decided to opt-out of the 2020 season. He is still considered to be one of, if not, the highest wide receiver in the upcoming draft. If he had played this year, he probably could have cemented himself as a top-five pick.
But will teams decide to look elsewhere for wide receiver help with Chase not playing football this season? Here are four teams who should be targeting Ja’Marr Chase in the 2021 NFL Draft.
It seems every single year, the words “Philadelphia Eagles” and “wide receiver help” are going hand in hand.
Last year’s first-round pick, Jalen Reagor, has battled injuries this year, but he’s been nonexistent in the Eagles’ offense. DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffrey have been shockingly hurt most of the year. Travis Fulgham flashed for a couple games but has fizzled out, and Greg Ward Jr. has been reliable but he’s not a No. 1 receiver, probably not even a top two, and will be a free agent this offseason.
Eagles GM Howie Roseman passed on higher-rated receivers like Justin Jefferson and Tee Higgins last draft to take Reagor. He very well could do that again and pass on Chase and go for either of Alabama’s DeVonta Smith or Jalen Waddle, or Purdue’s Rondale Moore.
Or, the Eagles could turn to defense and go for a linebacker, which the team also is in high need for, and target someone like Penn State’s Micah Parsons.
A huge caveat for this team is that the Eagles are technically still in the hunt to win the NFC East division, despite a poor 3-7-1 record. That’s the NFC East for you. The Eagles very well could have a high enough pick to not take Chase and address a bigger need, while they also could have a low enough pick that he’s off the board.
Regardless, the Eagles’ draft buzz is once again centered around wide receiver and rightfully so.
New England Patriots
For the first time in what seems like forever, the Patriots will have a fairly high pick in the NFL Draft.
Sitting currently at 5-6, the Patriots’ biggest need is wide receiver and quarterback. But there are going to be plenty of teams with QB needs that will have higher picks than them and the big four of Lawrence, Fields, Lance, and Wilson could be all unavailable by the time New England is on the clock.
Bill Belichick’s main focus should then be on wide receiver and Ja’Marr Chase could be up for the taking. The Patriots’ current wide receiver situation consists of Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, Jakobi Meyers, and Damiere Byrd. Edelman has been hurt and underperforming, Harry is beginning to head towards the “bust” direction, that’s when he is even on the field. Meyers has actually been a pleasant surprise, but in no world should be a WR1 at this point, and Byrd will be a free agent.
Now, Bill Belichick is known for not taking the sexy picks – and Chase is 100 percent a sexy pick. Most recently, Belichick opted to draft Harry in 2019 over the likes of Deebo Samuel, A.J. Brown, D.K. Metcalf, and Terry McLaurin – all who have had better careers to date than Harry.
If Chase is available and a top-tier QB isn’t, the Patriots should draft him. Plain and simple.
Could a reunion with Burrow and Chase be on the table? The Bengals currently sit at 2-8-1, are without Burrow for the rest of the year, and certainly should have a pick in the top-five, most likely even in the top-three. They certainly will have the option to bring the two Tigers back together by drafting Ja’Marr Chase.
For the Bengals at receiver, they have a promising young duo in Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins. A.J. Green seems likely to be out the door after an underwhelming contract year. Bringing in Chase, where he already has a good rapport with Burrow, would make for an extremely strong young core at receiver.
The problem is the Bengals are in desperate need for offensive line help to protect Burrow. The Bengals have been giving up 3.5 sacks per game, second-highest in the NFL, as Burrow was one of the most hit QB’s in the league. And with Burrow coming off the knee injury, it’s going to be very, very hard to pass up on Oregon’s Penei Sewell and frankly, they shouldn’t.
But if the Bengals do decide to look elsewhere for O-Line help and pass on Sewell (oh, the outrage on Twitter) or even trade up for another first-round pick, there should be a circle around Chase.
New York Giants
Like the Eagles, the Giants could very well finish with a record of a team with a high draft pick, but could also find themselves winning the division and playing out of a top-10 pick.
But if the Giants do lose the division – and being without QB Daniel Jones for a few weeks could certainly make that the case – they have lot of decisions to make in terms of the future of the franchise, as that will determine the route they go in the draft.
Is Jones the QB of the future? Will guys like Zach Wilson or Trey Lance be too good to pass up? Or could they lose their way to a high enough draft pick and get Sewell to help protect Jones?
The same scenario in the NFL Draft for the Eagles is in play for the Giants. They could have too high of a pick and address a bigger need, or have too low of a pick and Chase is off the board. Regardless, Chase would offer another weapon for whoever the quarterback is, and a trio of Chase, Sterling Shepard, and Darius Slayton would be fun to watch.