There is still a long way to go between now and the April 29th NFL draft, but now that we know who the general manager and head coach are, it is never too early to start taking a deep dive into draft prospects. This will begin our group of prospect profiles leading up to the draft.
The Falcons are picking fourth overall, but with so many quarterback-needy teams behind them, it is very possible they move back, which means pretty much everyone is on the table. I’ll start by breaking down one of my favorite prospects from my alma mater — Ja’Marr Chase.
There will be many debates leading up to the draft about who the best wide receiver in this class is — Chase or Heisman Trophy winner Devonta Smith. I’m biased, but it’s hard to overlook what Chase did as a 19-year-old true sophomore at LSU. He was Joe Burrow’s #1 target, which is even more impressive when you consider who Burrow’s #2 target was, Justin Jefferson. Jefferson went on to put together arguably the greatest rookie campaign we’ve ever seen from a receiver, and he was decidedly not the best receiver on his team in college.
As far as Chase’s game goes, there’s nothing he can’t do. He’s a freakishly good route runner, which allows him to look like the best athlete on the field at all times — even if he doesn’t have the premier athleticism that Julio Jones possesses. Chase may only be 6’1″, but he’s as strong as an ox, allowing him to dominate in one-on-ones despite tight coverage. That strength allows him to separate from press coverage, but his body control is equally impressive. His ability to high-point the ball, along with his impressive body control, allows for some highlight reel “You got Mossed!”. Chase is also a tremendously willing blocker that excels in that area — an all-around product that can come in and produce from day one, just like his former teammate Justin Jefferson.
Chase doesn’t really have any weaknesses in his game. He may not be 6’4″ or possess Henry Ruggs’ speed, but he’s still one of the best products at the receiver position that you’ll find coming out of college. The only real knock on him is the sample size. Because he decided to opt-out of the 2020 season, he only has one season of high-quality play on tape, and it came with Joe Burrow tossing him the ball in one of the most historic offenses we’ve ever seen in college football history. You would have liked to see him put up similar production with Myles Brennan under center this past year, but nobody can really knock him for deciding to sit out.
In his opening press conference as the Falcons GM, Terry Fontenot said that he would be centered around taking the best player available during the draft. If that’s the case, then Ja’Marr Chase has to be in the conversation, even if he doesn’t play a position of need. The Falcons have two stud wide receivers in Calvin Ridley and Julio Jones, but adding another would not hurt.
Also, thinking down the road — it’s unclear how long Jones and Ridley will be Falcons. Jones could be dealt as soon as this offseason, and Calvin Ridley’s contract runs out after 2022. I think Fontenot’s focus should be on other areas, but if he feels like Chase is a top-five player in this draft class, the Falcons could certainly do a lot worse.