Back to Basics – Ja’Marr Chase is an Alpha in Bloom

by Josh Peschke · Fantasy Football

My one burning conviction this whole summer was that Ja’Marr Chase was going to absolutely torch the league this year. All offseason a plethora of fantasy experts hedged their bets noting “he’s a rookie,” “everyone’s looking for the next Justin Jefferson,” and a bunch of other contrived reasons to live in non-take land. This analysis was and still is completely confusing to me; Chase is 6-0, ran a 4.39 (95th-percentile among qualified wide receivers) 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, and posted a 135.7 (97th-percentile) Burst Score. A prototypical alpha X receiver with a 19.5 (77th-percentile) Breakout Age who posted a 1,780 yard sophomore season at LSU is not the next Justin Jefferson? Those touts were right, he was better than Jefferson in college and now he’s better than Jefferson in the NFL.

Narrative Street

This narrative-based analysis has piqued my interest in fantasy football for awhile now. Since entering the Underworld, scorn is laid at the feet of coach-centric, Shanahan-ian, narrative-based analysis. And with Ja’Marr Chase, everyone was falling for it in the worst ways. No one clamored for the Joe Burrow-Chase shower narrative, but chose to focus on the negative instead.

I got into publishing because I wanted to determine why people glob onto this negative, noise-based analysis and to reinstate some journalistic integrity in a space inundated with start/sit articles.

Weekly, I have to hear friends I compete against pony up for the biggest slugs athletically. And it genuinely bothered me that I didn’t have a good outlet to express why these players are terrible investments in fantasy football. On the other side of that coin, it’s fascinating when players are measurably athletic and turn that athleticism into dominance on the football field. Athletic measurables is the one guiding light in prospect analysis, even if that light flickers from time to time, prospect to prospect.

Ja’Marr Chase Advanced Stats & Metrics Profile

Chase, a prospect with a near flawless college profile, demonstrated that he can not only win, but excel when targeted downfield. He averaged an absurd 21.2 (96th-percentile) College YPC, while pacing the NCAA and SEC in receiving yards. He scored 20 receiving touchdowns at age 21 as a true man among boys and was drafted No. 5 overall in the 2020 NFL Draft. The NFL industrial complex provided the biggest signal, that hey, this guy may just be good at football.

On draft night, this pick by the Cincinnati Bengals looked egregious considering how poor their offense line is. Rational people assumed they would draft a franchise left tackle to protect their biggest asset in Burrow, but the Bengals saw something in Chase that’s currently being realized. The narrative surrounding him never matched his athleticism and college counting stats. To be fair, he posted those monstrous numbers in only one season, which is a small sample size. But his college production was further cemented as a signal by Chase posting a 106.8 (86th-percentile) Speed Score and a massive 10.31 (94th-percentile) Catch Radius.

Discount Alpha

Starving for NFL game action, fantasy gamers bought into the other narrative perpetuated indicating Ja’Marr Chase was struggling with drops in practice. We’re talking about practice. Truly the greatest gift bestowed to sharp fantasy gamers all summer, his Underdog ADP was 58.5. Takes continued to surface that this price was just too rich to pay for a young prospect who hasn’t proven anything in the NFL, who only had one productive college season in a historic college offense, on an NFL team with no offense line and a recovering QB.

These takes were literally fueled by drops in practice!

Tee Higgins surfaced as a popular breakout candidate this summer and Chase has relegated him to secondary option status. In 10 games this year, Chase has commanded 79 (No. 18) targets, 47 (No. 22) receptions, 867 (No. 6) receiving yards, 8 (No. 3) TDs, and is averaging 18.1 (No. 7) Fantasy Points Per Game.

The Production

Ja’Marr Chase has posted 1,034 (No. 9) Air Yards, a 43.8-percent (No. 2) Air Yards Share, and has 20 (No. 3) Deep Targets. Burrow is dialing up deep balls to Chase and he’s converting in spectacular fashion. You don’t love receivers who win deep downfield generating big offensive plays? No problem, Chase is also winning with 246 (No. 18) Yards After Catch. “But he only had 13 fantasy points last week.” As the Podfather has reiterated, receivers are volatile week to week, and that micro analysis is ignoring Chase’s 18.4 (No. 5) Yards Per Reception, 11.0 (No. 7) Yards Per Target, and 2.73 (No. 6) Yards Per Route Run. He’s a walking unicorn in terms of production and efficiency, and I’m personally enjoying those who ran down narrative street during bestball season, chalking him up as a weekly lock in DFS.


Chase-ing Greatness

Ja’Marr Chase is my highest exposure player on Underdog thanks to Rotounderworld and his insane college production. Writing about prospects with the athleticism he possesses is just fun, and it’s simply a cherry on top that my bestball take happened to be right through seven games.