Everyone has a best friend. Most people are also graced with colleagues. It’s rare when you can combine the two without a fireworks display worthy of the holiday upcoming in the next month and change. The air gets very thin thinking of those possibilities happening in the NFL landscape, with dynamic pairings from college, which produce the very tape you grade, migrating to a team in tandem. To have an NFL reunion with a college teammate is an extremely rare occurrence over four years, let alone a single draft. In the first two rounds of the NFL Draft, I noted five interesting pairs coalesce into existence once again.
In the 2021 NFL Draft, four powerful tandems reunited in this draft, and one sneaky one, that I’m going to spotlight, as I believe they are extremely likely to gel quickly and be accustomed to their surroundings that much quicker come week one of the season.
“There’s One Perfect Fit”: The Pre-Destined Pairs
The Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Burrow’s NFL Reunion With Ja’Marr Chase
Ja’Marr Chase will be reuniting with the only quarterback he’s caught passes from since he left high school, Joe Burrow, with the Bengals. It’s the first time since the 2008-2009 NFL draft that two players from the same college, were taken in the top five selections, by the same team since the Kansas City Chiefs took DT Glenn Dorsey No. 4 and DE Tyson Jackson No. 3 from, ironically, LSU! While Ja’Marr and Joe were together, they were just the engine that drove one of the greatest, if not the greatest, college football seasons of all time. Hopefully, their careers last longer than the 7-8 year span of their collegiate predecessors.
The stats are otherworldly. Easily the greatest season a quarterback has ever had, Burrow rewrote nearly every record a QB could record. 5,671 yards passing on 402 completions, and a 10:1 TD-INT ratio at 60 touchdowns to six interceptions and an undefeated season left them standing alone at the top when all was said and done. Ja’Marr Chase accounted for 84 of those catches for 1,780 yards with 20 touchdowns, alongside Justin Jefferson. Though Chase was outpaced in receptions, he outgained Jefferson in the yardage category by 240 yards with 27 fewer receptions. With the consensus speculating that Chase is even better than Jefferson, Burrow won’t have the excuse of weaponry at his disposal.
The Miami Dolphins: Tua Tagovailoa’s NFL Reunion With Jaylen Waddle
Jaylen Waddle will join back up with quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who he seemingly eschewed just before the draft for Mac Jones, on the Miami Dolphins. He’ll have to make do with his number two, which isn’t necessarily the worst scenario for him. Jaylen Waddle had his best season, production-wise, with Tua at the helm in Alabama in 2018. Tua similarly had his most complete season that year, posting up 3,996 yards on only 245 completions, with 43 touchdowns to six interceptions.
Jaylen contributed 45 catches for 848 yards and seven touchdowns in a shortened season due to injury. He averaged 18.8 yards per catch as a speedy, proficient route-runner that could take the top off the defense along with speedster Henry Ruggs. In this NFL reunion, his role will probably be a similar one as he joins DeVante Parker, Will Fuller, Lynn Bowden Jr., and a sneaky Allen Hurns in a certified stable of pass-catchers. Staying healthy will be his main concern with his track record for injuries, not to mention nearly all of his fellow wide receivers.
The Philadelphia Eagles: Jalen Hurts’ NFL Reunion With DeVonta Smith
Jalen Hurts, another former Alabama QB, gets a pass catcher he had when he first started throwing footballs for the Crimson Tide, DeVonta Smith as the Eagles try to right the ship. Jalen had a somewhat tumultuous experience at Alabama dealing with head coach Nick Saban switching Tua Tagovailoa in at quarterback throughout the 2017 and 2018 season at his whim. Both played outstanding either way, resulting in a pair of title game appearances. Rekindling a winning mindset and fielding a competent offense are the bare minimums on tap with this NFL reunion.
When Hurts took over for an out-of-sorts Carson Wentz for the last month of the 2020 NFL season, his athleticism and potential were apparent on screen. Giving him Smith, the best route runner, and possibly the best all-around receiver, in the draft will open up a stale playbook to utilize all of the athletic talents on the roster. Last year’s first-round selection Jalen Reagor had a rocky start to his season as most rookies do, but flashed his pedigree and showed signs of improvement down the final stretch of December. The cupboard is stocked for the third-round quarterback, and now it’s time to earn the franchise’s trust in the 2021 season.
The Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence’s NFL Reunion With Travis Etienne
Trevor Lawrence will get the running back he’s known through his superb collegiate career at Clemson. While moving just down the coast to Jacksonville, Travis Etienne won’t be moving anywhere but up in Fantasy Football Drafts around the world as people get more and more glimpses of his talent. While Joe Burrow’s NFL reunion has the numerical potency and potential for greatness in the future, Trevor and Travis have put out 3 years of tape together, had 3 years of blocking meetings together, spent 3 years in a locker room with each other already! I’m excited to see how smoothly they will be able to operate out of the pocket, the protection schemes, and the rapport on routes and concepts.
The backfield is loaded after finding a diamond in running back James Robinson as an undrafted free agent, adding Etienne in the first round of this year’s draft, and signing veteran Carlos Hyde in free agency. With D.J. Chark and Marvin Jones III on the outside, and Laviska Shenault Jr. in the slot gives Lawrence some quality targets to get the ball to. This isn’t your father’s Jacksonville Jaguars team on offense this year. With Urban Meyer ushering in a completely new philosophy to Duval, we can hope that this NFL reunion keeps some things the same.
The Los Angeles Chargers: Derwin James’ NFL Reunion With Asante Samuel Jr.
I get it. A bit more of a stretch on this reunion between a senior and a freshman, but they were two-thirds of one of the most dangerous trios in college football at Florida State University. Derwin James, Jalen Ramsey, and Asante Samuel Jr. patrolled the secondary for the Seminoles comprising of one of the most athletic pass defender tandems at the time. This NFL reunion spells danger for opposing quarterbacks, as the range, communication and familiarity will definitely come into play as they get back on the field together.
The Chargers will need every bit of help they can get to deal with Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City. Not to mention, with the Green Bay Packers completely botching their quarterback situation, the possibility of Aaron Rodgers coming into the division with the Denver Broncos or the Las Vegas Raiders is a very real scenario. With Casey Hayward now departed from the left corner slot, Asante will pair with Chris Harris Jr. and have Derwin James behind him as the secondary, again looks like a top ten unit. Hopefully, they perform as such, and the Chargers can get the rollercoaster climbing to the clouds once again, and begin an exciting new era of Chargers football with a few old friends.
Thank you for reading my article about a few familiar faces getting the rare opportunity to reunite with a playmaker they played with in college. I’m always learning and improving, and I hope to learn from you! Follow @OTHFootball and @Mark_H_Miller1 for more NFL articles and content!