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Ja’Marr Chase Favored Over DeVonta Smith in Odds to Be First Wide Receiver Taken in 2021 NFL Draft

Robert Duff

by Robert Duff in NFL Football

Feb 22, 2021 · 3:52 PM PST

LSU wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase celebrates
LSU wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase (7) celebrates a fumble recovery in the first half an NCAA college football game against Mississippi State in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
  • Ja’Marr Chase has overtaken Heisman Trophy-winner DeVonta Smith as the -125 favorite to be the first wide receiver off the board during the 2021 NFL Draft
  • The NCAA’s leading receiver in 2019 at LSU, Chase opted out of the 2020 season to focus on preparing for his pro career
  • He had 1,720 yards and 20 touchdowns on 84 catches with the Tigers in 2019

The Chase is on to be the first wide receiver selected into the 2021 NFL Draft. Evidently, absence not only makes the heart grow fonder, it trumps DeVonta Smith’s Heisman Trophy win.

Ja’Marr Chase, who opted out of the 2020 college football season, has overtaken Smith and become the odds-on favorite to be the first wideout off the board during the upcoming NFL Draft (May 29 to April 1). He’s currently listing at -125 to be the receiver whose name is going to be the first called in the NFL Draft odds.

Heisman-winner Smith is currently at a betting line of +125. His Alabama Crimson Tide teammate Jaylen Waddle is a distant third in this betting market at +700.

First Receiver Selected at 2021 NFL Draft Odds

Player (School) Odds
Ja’Marr Chase (LSU) -150
DeVonta Smith (Alabama) +125
Jaylen Waddle (Alabama) +700
Rashod Bateman (Minnesota) +2000
Terrace Marshall Jr (LSU) +3300
Kadarius Toney (Florida) +5000
Rondale Moore (Purdue) +10000
Amon-Ra St Brown (USC) +15000
Tutu Atwell (Louisville) +15000
Nico Collins (Michigan) +20000
Tylan Wallace (Oklahoma State) +25000
D’Wayne Eskridge (Western Michigan) +25000

Odds as of Feb. 22nd at DraftKings.

The first round of the 2021 NFL Draft is slated for Thursday, April 29th, at 8 pm ET in Cleveland, Ohio, and will be broadcast by ESPN.

The Chase Is On

With the national champion LSU Tigers in 2019, Chase led the nation with 84 catches for 1,720 yards and 20 touchdowns. He was the go-to wide receiver for quarterback Joe Burrow in the LSU offensive scheme, eclipsing 2020 NFL rookie sensation Justin Jefferson of the Minnesota Vikings, .

Chase won the Biletnikoff Trophy as the NCAA’s top receiver. In the CFP championship game against Clemson, he caught nine balls for 221 yards and two TDs.

While certainly not a deep threat in terms of raw speed, Chase gets open by virtue of his quality technique and precise route running. He’s been compared in style to Kenny Golladay of the Detroit Lions.

At 6-feet, 208 pounds, he’s not overly tall. Still, his vertical leap is reminiscent of Randy Moss. And his physical strength enables him to run right through tackles. His hands are also world-class. If Chase manages to touch the ball, he almost always comes up with the catch.

Smith’s Sensational Season

Chase established a bunch of SEC single-season receiving records in 2019. Then Smith came along and broke the majority of them in 2020. He caught 117 passes for 1,859 yards and 23 TDs. In the national championship win over Ohio State, Smith caught 12 balls for 215 yards and three TDs.

The Alabama wideout presents a bit of a dilemma for NFL personnel staff, though. At 6-foot-1 and 175 pounds, he’s slight by NFL standards. Yet he delivers astronomical numbers that can’t be overlooked.

He consistently produces and did so last season even after Waddle was lost for the season to injury.

With his lean build, ability to run crisp routes, slick hands, and tough exterior, NFL scouts see Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison as a comparable for Smith.

Who Goes First?

There’s no wrong choice between these two stud receivers. The key to this bet is to assess the needs of teams looking for a wideout in the upper tier of the first round. That list begins with the Miami Dolphins, who pick third overall.

Miami desperately requires a playmaker at the skill positions on offense. It just so happens that the Dolphins have former Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa under center. The familiarity between him and Smith will seal the deal.

That doesn’t mean that Smith is a better receiver than Chase. It’s simply a case of him being the best fit for what the Fins desire.

Chase could go to the Cincinnati Bengals at #5 and partake in a reunion with his college QB Burrow. If not, then he’s an ideal pairing with speedy Jalen Reagor at wide receiver for the Philadelphia Eagles, who select sixth overall.

Pick: Devonta Smith (+125)

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