LSU’s Chase puts on show in front of Falcons’ GM

Wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase sat out the 2020 season. He details his struggles, his performance at LSU Pro Day and possibly reuniting with Joe Burrow.

The last time the nation saw LSU wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase on the football field, he was speeding past former Clemson cornerback and future Atlanta Falcon A.J. Terrell on the way to a national title.

After the scintillating performance in which Chase caught nine passes for 221 yards and two touchdowns, he opted out of the 2020 season to concentrate on his professional career.

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Chase, who’s 6-foot-1 and 208 pounds, dazzled the NFL scouts at his Pro Day workout before a crowd that included Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot, offensive coordinator Dave Ragone and wide receivers coach David Brock.

“I kind of surprised myself,” Chase said. “I was going for low 4.4s (in the 40-yard dash), but last night I was feeling good about my starts and I felt like I could have got 4.3s.”

Chase allegedly ran the 40-yard dash in 4.38 seconds, but the times coming out of LSU have been suspect. He had a 41-inch vertical and 11-foot broad jump which points to the explosiveness of his lower body.

“I just wanted to go out there and put on a show for them,” Chase said.

The sure-handed receiver played as a true freshman and caught 23 passes for 313 yards and three touchdowns in 2018. The following season, he combined with quarterback Joe Burrow to help lead the Tigers to the national title.

He caught 84 passes for 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns, which included that stellar title-game showing.

“This is a big-time pure No. 1 wide out,” NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said.

LSU's Ja’Marr Chase grabs a TD pass while Clemson's A.J. Terrell defends. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
LSU's Ja’Marr Chase grabs a TD pass while Clemson's A.J. Terrell defends. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

There was some controversy over his decision to skip the 2020 season, if he was leaving school after being convinced by agents not to return and work on his speed or if he opted out for COVID-19 reasons.

“My decision came off my family,” Chase insisted on Wednesday. “A lot of family-based moves. I had a lot going on with my family at the time. I wanted to take care of that. During the season I didn’t want to play a few games and then opt-out because that doesn’t look right.

“If I was going to play some games, I might as well finish the whole season. I was still debating on if I wanted to opt out in the spring when I did it.”

After opting out, it was tough watching the Tigers.

“Watching them guys play games that I know we were supposed to win, was the hardest thing I had to do,” Chase said. “I had to sit there and watch it sometimes. Sometimes, I would turn it off.”

With three quarterbacks projected to go early in the draft, the intrigue in the draft starts with the Falcons who have the fourth overall pick. If the Falcons pass, Chase could reunite with Burrow in Cincinnati. The Bengals have the fifth pick. He is not projected to get pass Miami, which holds the sixth pick.

“I have talked to the Bengals, but I don’t know how many times I’ve talked to them though,” Chase said. “But me and Joe, I wouldn’t mind going back with Joe. If we get back together we won’t do (anything), but try to reconnect the chemistry and go and have some more fun.”

Chase is projected to be the latest in a recent line of LSU receivers to thrive in the NFL.

Last season, Justin Jefferson caught 88 passes for 1,400 yards and seven touchdowns as a rookie. He was selected to the Pro Bowl.

Cleveland’s Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry and Falcons wide receiver Russell Gage all played at LSU.

“I can’t wait to be in the NFL,” Chase said. “This is really like a dream come true for me. I’ve been thinking about this since I have maybe been nine or 10 years old.”

Chase hopes to have an immediate impact like Jefferson did with the Vikings in 2020.

“I enjoyed (watching) Justin play this season,” Chase said. “He had a great season.”

However, Chase isn’t buying all of the “Wide Receiver U” talk.

“I don’t think there is a chip on our shoulders,” Chase said. “I don’t think there is no worries for the rest of the receivers here. I think everyone just wants to build their own legacy, leave something at LSU. That’s what we all came here to do, build our legacy and leave one.”

ESPN’s Ryan Clark, a former NFL defensive back, said that Chase was a bigger version of former Carolina wide receiver Steve Smith.

Chase has a group of receivers that he has tried to emulate.

“When I was here, I was watching a lot of different receivers,” Chase said. “I was really watching Stefon Diggs. ... I just like how shifty and quick that he is. He has a sudden burst that’s always explosive.

“Growing up I was a big Dez Bryant fan. I got cool with (Saints wide receiver) Michael Thomas when we won the championship, so those people always kept me going, kept pushing me. I just always wanted to take a little bit of their games and add it to mine.”

Falcons’ 2021 draft position: Here are the top nine picks in D. Led’s Mock Draft 3.0:

1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence (QB, Clemson)

2. New York Jets: Zach Wilson, (QB, BYU)

3. San Francisco 49ers: Trey Lance (QB, North Dakota State)

4. Denver Broncos (trade with Falcons): Justin Fields (QB, Ohio State)

5. Cincinnati Bengals: Penei Sewell (OT, Oregon)

6. Miami Dolphins: DeVonta Smith (WR, Alabama)

7. Detroit Lions: Ja’Marr Chase (WR, LSU)

8. Carolina Panthers: Mac Jones (QB, Alabama)

9. Falcons (trade with Broncos): Micah Parsons, (OLB, Penn State)

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