Philadelphia Eagles: Justin Jefferson was Ja’Marr Chase’s 1B at LSU

(Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
(Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images) /

As tough as it may be for Philadelphia Eagles fans to admit, Justin Jefferson quite possibly may have had the best rookie season in NFL history.

Now sure, some will point to the fact that Jefferson receiving the 16th most targets of any wide receiver in the league or that he went to a far better team than any of his first-round compatriots, but objectively speaking, it’s hard to argue with the numbers.

We’re talking 88 catches for 1,400 yards and seven touchdowns. Jefferson was named to the Pro Bowl, will surely receive All-Rookie honors, and has a legitimate case for being an All-Pro at the tender age of 21.

Why, you may ask, am I bringing this up? Am I just a glutton for punishment who enjoys wallowing in Howie Roseman‘s errors? Well, because Ja’Marr Chase was considered the unquestioned better prospect coming out of college and very well may be available when the Philadelphia Eagles are on the board with the sixth overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Ja’Marr Chase can finally give the Philadelphia Eagles a true WR1.

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How many games does it take to solidify a player as a first-round pick? Can one singularly incredible campaign change a player’s life forever, even if it took place in 2019?

For Ja’Marr Chase, that appears to be the case.

After starting off his time at LSU rather quietly, hauling in 23 balls in 10 games for 313 yards and three touchdowns, Chase exploded onto the national conversation as the number one receiver for the Joe Burrow-led eventual national champions.

How good are we talking? Try 84 receptions for *eyes widen* 1,780 yards, and *gulp* 20 touchdowns in 14 games of action.

If that doesn’t scream true


purple number one wide receiver, I don’t know what does.

Chase is a good route runner, has fantastic field vision, and is a natural hands catcher. When the ball is thrown in his direction, Chase seemingly finds a way to bring it down, whether it’s thrown over his shoulder, behind him, or even a toss-up 50/50 fight in the air.

Though the Harvey, Louisiana native did benefit from playing in one of the most prolific offenses the college ranks have seen in recent memory under passing game coordinator Joe Brady, as the future Carolina Panthers OC seemingly always found a way to manufacture open looks for his receivers, Chase didn’t sleepwalk into almost 1,800 receiving yards by mistake. No, many of his catches were earned the hard way, weaving through traffic and fighting for extra yards through contact.

Whether aligned at his natural ‘X’ receiver spot flush with the line or moved around to find mismatches at the ‘Z’ or in the slot, Chase proved himself a complete player capable of attacking the field from all three levels and running any route in the book.

If Burrow needed a deep ball completion, he would turn to Chase. If Burrow needed some YAC on a quick slant, he would turn to Chase. Heck, Brady, Chase, and company would even throw the occasional screen Chase’s way with players like Clyde Edwards-Helaire or Thaddeus Moss serving as blockers – a look that proved to be incredibly effective, even if it was more often called for Jefferson.

Even after sitting out the 2020 NCAA season, there’s little reason to believe that Chase isn’t still a top-10 player and could ultimately be selected before the Eagles even go on the clock sixth overall.

However, if Chase is available and the Eagles want to address their sub-optimal collection of offensive playmakers in the first round, there’s very little reason to worry about making the 20-year-old prospect the sixth overall selection; if anything, his lack of playing time in 2020 may have actually set him up for an even bigger comeback in 2021.

While many a football fan has since shifted their attention to Devonta Smith as the premier skill position player in the 2021 NFL Draft, in 2019, there really wasn’t a legitimate conversation between the two of them. Had the two receivers been available alongside Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs, and CeeDee Lamb, it’s hard to argue that Chase wouldn’t have been the first player off the board and may have gone to a team like the New York Giants as high as fourth overall.

Granted, hindsight being what it is, I doubt the Raiders would have opted for Ruggs when Jefferson was on the board, but all things considered, it’s hard to argue that anyone, even Smith, had as much hype coming off the 2019 NCAA season than the then-reigning Biletnikoff winner.

If you can land a more physically-imposing Amari Cooper with a top-10 pick, why not do it?

Next. Free agent targets from the AFC South. dark

In 2020, Justin Jefferson was a revelation. He seemingly amassed more yards on his own than the entire Philadelphia Eagles’ wide receiving corps and outperformed both Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs all by himself. So, if a team can land a player who was the unquestioned number one receiver over that guy while the duo played together in college, why not do so? Assuming the Eagles don’t opt to instead use their first-round pick on, like, an offensive lineman – which is always on the table for Howie Roseman – Ja’Marr Chase is the kind of player who can single-handedly change the fates of an offense. Need proof? Just ask the 2020 LSU Tigers, who went from 15-0 to 5-5 in his absence.