Ja’Marr Chase the WR1 over DeVonta Smith, Jaylen Waddle

The pro day cycle has never had more eyeballs on it than in 2021. Without the Scouting Combine, the only measured testing the league has in 2021 is from school pro days. According to their Relative Athletic Scores, there are quite a few athletic marvels in this class, with three best-ever performances at their respective positions. Unlike prior seasons, the top athletes in this class also seem to coincide with the most highly regarded 2021 NFL Draft talent. LSU wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase is no exception, who helped cement his draft stock at LSU’s 2021 Pro Day.

This is especially true, considering the Alabama duo of Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith did not test. PFN Chief NFL’s Analyst Trey Wingo and Chief Draft Analyst and NFL Insider Tony Pauline had strong feelings about Chase and the rest of the top players in this strong receiver class.

You can watch Trey and Tony discuss this in the clip above. Be sure to join PFN Chief NFL Analyst Trey Wingo and Chief Draft Analyst Tony Pauline every week on Draft Insiders as they break down all you need to know heading into the 2021 NFL Draft. Subscribe to our PFN YouTube channel and hit the notifications icon so you can tune in live every Wednesday at 9 PM ET.

Ja’Marr Chase: Top of his class

WINGO: It was pretty clear to me from LSU’s Pro Day that Ja’Marr Chase is the dude atop the wide receiver list, right?

PAULINE: I don’t even know why it was ever a question.

WINGO: Thank you.

PAULINE: He’s one of the best players in this draft. DeVonta Smith is really good. Jaylen Waddle is good. Ja’Marr Chase has the potential to be great. It was never a question for me.

WINGO: And again, last year, before Justin Jefferson went in the draft, they thought of those two receivers that Ja’Marr Chase was the better one, and then Justin Jefferson goes and breaks all those rookie records. So you have to wonder and love what you’re going to see potentially out of Ja’Marr at the next level.

Chase’s impressive pro day

Chase opted out of the 2020 college football season. Most prospects found their perceived draft stock dwindle during their opt-out year, but Chase’s never wavered. With the other top receivers not testing, Chase saw an opportunity to pounce and assert himself as the top WR prospect, and he did just that.

Height: 6’0 3/8″
Weight: 201
40-Yard Dash: 4.38
Bench Press: 23
Vertical Jump: 41″
Broad Jump: 11′
Short Shuttle: 3.98
Three-Cone: 7.00

Testing above average to great in every category helped secure an elite RAS of 9.89. The only receiver that tested better per RAS is LSU teammate Terrace Marshall Jr., who scored an overall 9.94.

Comparing Ja’Marr Chase to DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle

The best thing about the top of this class regarding the receivers is they provide three very different profiles. Chase is the physical specimen that will beat up a cornerback at the top of a route. He can win vertically against press coverage due to his physicality, and he showed enough game speed to threaten the sideline. He is a menace on back-shoulder fades and in the air.

Although Chase flashed the athleticism that suggests he can do it, the one knock against him is his route running. He wins consistently at the college level, but the windows he wins in are small. He needs to become a more nuanced route runner in the NFL, but he has the feet to accomplish that.

[sv slug=”drizly”]

Smith is a smooth operator who runs crisp routes and possesses the same above-the-rim ability as Chase, albeit in a much slimmer package. His questions moving forward surround nothing outside of that 170-pound frame. While he might not appear as explosive as Chase or Waddle, he’s a proven playmaker with great vision after the catch and the ability to beat pursuit angles.

Featured | First Round 2021 NFL Mock Draft: 49ers eyeing Justin Fields

Waddle is a unicorn. There have been many, many poor Tyreek Hill comparisons throughout the past few seasons, but Waddle is the closest thing to Hill that we’ve seen. His explosiveness is only comparable to Purdue’s Rondale Moore.

However, the difference between the two is their ability as traditional receivers. Waddle doesn’t have quite the sure hands of Chase or Smith, but they aren’t an issue like Jerry Jeudy. Waddle is a stellar route runner with the upside of being completely uncoverable against man coverage. He also averaged over 24 yards per punt return in 2019, highlighting his versatility.

Ja’Marr Chase has been my No. 2 prospect I think since we put the first big board up on Pro Football Network last October when there were some 1,500 guys on there. Before many of the underclassmen entered the draft, it’s been Ja’Marr Chase. I think he further affirmed that today.”

Want more 2021 NFL Draft prospect news? Want to do your own mock draft?

Dive into PFN’s Free NFL Mock Draft Simulator and test your own drafting acumen. Continue to visit Pro Football Network for NFL news and in-depth analysis. Also, be sure to follow us on Twitter (@PFN365) to stay in the loop on all things college football and the NFL Draft landscape.

Dalton Miller is the Lead NFL Analyst at Pro Football Network. You can read more of his work here and follow him @daltonbmiller on Twitter and Twitch.


Every day, get free NFL updates sent straight to your inbox!