The rookie hype with Ja’Marr Chase is high, but for good reason. If Chase would’ve declared for the draft a year earlier, he would’ve made a case for the top wide receiver in the incredible 2020 wide receiver class. Unfortunately, he was ineligible for the draft since he had just finished up his sophomore season, but he was part of that historic 2019 National Championship LSU team led by his former college quarterback and current NFL quarterback, Joe Burrow.
Since Chase opted out of the 2020 season due to the Covid-19 pandemic, let’s take a look at his freshman and sophomore year college stats. In his freshman season, he started just 8 of the 14 games for the Tigers and had a minor role, finishing with 23 receptions for 313 yards and 3 TDs. This might not seem like much, but for a true freshman at 18 years old to come in and do anything in the SEC is worth noting. The 19 year old breakout age in his sophomore season made Chase one of the highest coveted prospects as he finished with an outstanding 1,780 yards and 20 TDs on 84 receptions. This performance led him to win the Biletnikoff Award, while being named Unanimous All-American and First-Team All-SEC.
His college teammate, Justin Jefferson, was taken in the first round by the Minnesota Vikings after the Eagles decided to pass on him for Jalen Reagor ( yes, I’m a bitter Eagles fan). Jefferson had arguably the best rookie season by a wide receiver in NFL history. The hype around him has only helped Ja’Marr’s value, especially in dynasty fantasy football. Chase had less receptions than Jefferson in 2019, but he did have more yards. Chase’s 21.2 YPC in 2019 was the second highest among wide receivers drafted in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft behind CeeDee Lamb who finished just ahead of him with 21.4 YPC. Others out of that class were Henry Ruggs III who finished with 18.7 YPC, Jerry Jeudy with 15.1 YPC, Jalen Reagor with 14.2 YPC, Justin Jefferson with 13.9 YPC and Brandon Aiyuk with 18.3 YPC. Among all of them, Chase finished with the most receiving TDs with 20 in 2019 with the second closest being teammate Justin Jefferson with 18 TDs.
When looking at his 2021 rookie season, I’m going to take an unbiased look at what we can expect from him. All these predictions are with the assumption that Joe Burrow stays healthy and plays most of the season.
I may not be as bullish on Chase in year 1 as most, though I do think he’ll have an unbelievable career. I see him has a mid-to-low WR2 in PPR formats. The reason I don’t think he’ll finish as a WR1 is because in the past ten seasons only Odell Beckham Jr. (2014), Michael Thomas (2016) and Justin Jefferson (2020) have had a WR1 season as a rookie. The odds just aren’t in his favor even though he is a superstar talent. He also has to share the field with Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd who will demand their fair share of targets too. Temper your expectations for him next season.