NFL Draft Receiver Rankings: No. 1 – Ja’Marr Chase, LSU

Ja'Marr Chase had a season for the ages in 2019 and enters the draft as the potential top receiver, even though he didn't play in 2020.
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With Davante Adams, the Green Bay Packers have one of the NFL’s premier receivers. The supporting cast isn’t great and lacks a pure slot threat, but Allen Lazard brings size and physicality, Marquez Valdes-Scantling is a premier deep threat and Devin Funchess is back after being a COVID opt-out. While Adams presumably will be given a contract extension, Valdes-Scantling, Funchess and Equanimeous St. Brown will be unrestricted free agents at this time next year. That means Green Bay, at least, needs to add a receiver or two to get ready for what could be an offseason of change in 2022. Note: In the 16 drafts conducted by Ted Thompson and Brian Gutekunst, Randall Cobb was the shortest receiver selected at 5-foot-10 1/4. Thus, any receiver shorter than 5-foot-10 (no rounding) will not be considered in our series.

LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase is our No. 1-ranked receiver.

Of all of JaMarr Chase’s incredible statistics, perhaps this is the most staggering.

Over the 2019 and 2020 seasons, Chase led college football with 14 touchdown receptions of 20-plus yards. Chase didn’t play in 2020, deciding to opt-out.

With Joe Burrow leading the LSU juggernaut to a national championship, Chase caught 84 passes for 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns. He averaged 21.2 yards per reception. It was a season for the ages.

“I would say hard work,” Chase’s father, Jimmy, told WAFB-TV. “My son has a tremendous work ethics and I’m so proud of him because he works hard. No, he like really works hard. He loves to play. He is very competitive. And if he can’t do something, he’s not going to stop until he gets it done. He’s my youngest kid. He’s been getting beat up all his life by his older brothers and sisters so he’s not taking crap off anybody his age because he’s been through that his enough. He just loves to compete.”

Jimmy Chase was a defensive back at Alcorn State. An older brother, Jimmy Jr., was a lineman at SMU. It was at his father’s urging that he wrote down a series of goals and stuck them to his bathroom mirror before the 2019 season. Among them: win the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top receiver.

"I told him he needed to have a plan of action," Jimmy said. "Can't just go out there and do things. You have to have a plan, you know? That's why we talk about goals: trying to achieve something."

Short, deep or in between, Chase dominated. According to Pro Football Focus, he caught 24-of-36 passes thrown 20-plus yards downfield. That’s the most since PFF began tracking college players. Meanwhile, he broke 22 tackles. That was one behind the 2020 season leader.

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

Chase was a five-star recruit at Archbishop Rummel High School in Metairie, La., where he not only was a record-breaking receiver but state champion in the long jump. At various points in his recruitment, he was headed to Ole Miss, Auburn, TCU and Florida. He might have gone to TCU if not for an NFL Network schedule change. Finally, he chose to stay home and go to LSU.

"It would be easy for a guy like him to be cocky, but he's not," Rummel coach Jay Roth told NOLA.com. "You never hear him telling the quarterback to give him the ball. Some people think because they are talented, they don't have to follow the rules. Ja' Marr isn't that guy. He was always prepared for practice and just did everything right and never took it for granted that he was a star."

Had he not opted out, he would have worn the coveted No. 7 jersey. Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu are among the Tigers legends to have donned that number. "This was a tough decision for me," Chase said. "I've been thinking about this for a couple of weeks. I look at No. 7 as a competitive number. I think the No. 7 at LSU is a challenge. There's a lot of things that go on in the year when you have 7 on, a lot of critics, a lot of people, a lot of expectations from 7, and I want to have that challenge upon me."

Having not played in a year, his upcoming pro day will be an important avenue to remind scouts of his talent. "I want to prove to them that I'm a real wide receiver. I do as much as everybody else can and probably better so I'm going out there, play my game and showing what they want to see," Chase told NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah.

Measureables: 6-foot 1/4, 208 pounds (unofficial.). Pro day: March 31.

Stats and accolades: Chase caught 84 passes for 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2019, the most receiving yards and receiving touchdowns in SEC history. He won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top receiver and was a unanimous All-American. In his two-season career, Chase tallied 98 receptions for 2,093 yards and 23 touchdowns. He was the player in LSU history to surpass the 2,000-yard mark in his first two seasons. He had three games of 200-plus yards in 2019, including nine receptions for 221 yards and two touchdowns vs. Clemson in the national championship game.

NFL Draft Bible says: Chase shows dependable hands, while making the difficult catch look easy due to his tremendous ball skills and athleticism. His size/speed combo, in addition to his strength and passion, makes for an unlimited ceiling. Chase can bench 325-plus pounds, squats 480 and can hang clean 250. He recorded 41 plays of 15 yards or more in 2019 (including 20 touchdowns) on his way to winning the Biletnikoff Award, a sample of his big-play ability. It was notable to hear AJ Terrell, Trevon Diggs and Cam Dantzler name Chase as the toughest opponent they faced throughout their career at the 2020 NFL Combine.

About This Series

Packer Central is introducing you to the top prospects, both on and off the field, in this year’s NFL Draft. The series is starting with the top five at each position, then will add additional players as the draft approaches, with a focus on positions of need.

WR1: LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase

WR2: Alabama’s DeVonta Smith

WR3: Florida’s Kadarius Toney

WR4: Minnesota’s Rashod Bateman

WR5: LSU’s Terrace Marshall

RB1: Alabama’s Najee Harris

RB2: Clemson’s Travis Etienne

RB3: North Carolina’s Javonte Williams

RB4: Memphis’ Kenneth Gainwell

RB5: North Carolina’s Michael Carter

QB1: Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence

QB2: Ohio State’s Justin Fields

QB3: BYU’s Zach Wilson

QB4: North Dakota State’s Trey Lance

QB5: Alabama’s Mac Jones

Draft Order: All 259 selections