Ja'Marr Chase and Joe Burrow Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Best College Football Teammates Now Playing Together in the NFL

David Kenyon

Among the many appeals of the NFL draft, the much-anticipated event occasionally serves as a link for college football stars.

Sure, it doesn't happen with immense regularity. But the last half-decade, for example, has brought a reunion of LSU's Joe Burrow and Ja'Marr Chase, who have become instrumental pieces of the Cincinnati Bengals offense—and the team's AFC title two seasons ago.

Including the former LSU standouts, we've highlighted six of the most notable current NFL pairs that played together in college.

Unsurprisingly, there's a heavy Alabama influence, too.

Both players at least earned all-conference honors and are viewed as core contributors in their professional home.

Michael Thomas and Marshon Lattimore

David Grunfeld/The Advocate via AP

The New Orleans Saints leaned on two Ohio State products to help them rattle off four straight NFC South titles from 2017-20.

Michael Thomas, a third-team All-Big Ten selection in 2015, notched two All-Pro campaigns during that stretch. Most notably, the wideout set an NFL record with 149 receptions in the 2019 season.

New Orleans picked Thomas in the second round of the 2016 draft and cornerback Marshon Lattimore in 2017's opening round. The latter was named first-team All-Big Ten in 2016 and won AP Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2017. He also added Pro Bowl honors three straight years from 2019-2021.

Thomas and Lattimore both missed a majority of 2022 due to injury but are prime candidates for bounce-back years.

Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne

Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Alabama has churned out NFL talent at a remarkable rate, with the 2016 squad featuring Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne.

Allen collected 69 tackles with 16 for loss and secured first-team All-America recognition. Payne registered 36 stops in 2016 and jumped to 53 tackles in 2017, landing second-team All-SEC honors that season.

The now-Washington Commanders chose Allen with the 17th pick of the 2017 draft. The next year, Washington returned to the Alabama well and selected Payne 13th overall.

Allen and Payne have both notched 54-plus tackles in five consecutive seasons, and both were Pro Bowlers in 2022.

Jalen Hurts and DeVonta Smith

Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

There is a slight asterisk here, but it's a reasonable one.

During the 2017 season, Jalen Hurts started at quarterback for Alabama while DeVonta Smith held a reserve role. The next year, Smith owned a starting spot, but Tua Tagovailoa had leapt Hurts on the depth chart.

Still, they shared the field for two seasons in Tuscaloosa and achieved All-SEC status—Hurts in 2016 and Smith in 2019 and 2020.

Hurts went to the Philadelphia Eagles as a second-round pick in 2020 and traded up to grab Smith at No. 10 overall in 2021. They played key roles in Philly winning the NFC in 2022, led by Hurts finishing as the MVP runner-up and Smith racking up 95 catches for 1,196 yards.

Tua Tagovailoa and Jaylen Waddle

Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The third and final Alabama connection is Tua Tagovailoa and Jaylen Waddle, who played together in 2018 and 2019.

In those seasons, Tagovailoa landed two All-SEC honors and was named second-team AP All-American in 2018. Waddle secured All-SEC recognition as a returner twice, catching 106 passes with a sizzling 18.9-yard average along the way.

Tagovailoa headed to the Miami Dolphins as the fifth pick of the 2020 draft before Waddle went sixth overall in 2021.

Injuries have slowed Tua in the NFL, yet he paced the league with 8.9 yards per pass attempt in 2022. Waddle, meanwhile, has surpassed 1,000 receiving yards in both pro seasons.

Joe Burrow and Ja'Marr Chase

AP Photo/Brett Carlsen

All three QB-WR connections have a similar trend: The team drafted the quarterback first, then the receiver.

Joe Burrow and Ja'Marr Chase played integral roles in the 2019 LSU squad becoming an iconic college team. That offense shattered records, and both players earned unanimous first-team All-American status.

Soon enough, the Cincinnati Bengals had Burrow (first overall in 2020) and Chase (fifth in 2021) back on the same roster.

Cincinnati advanced to the Super Bowl in 2021, a season in which Burrow won Comeback Player of the Year and Chase secured All-Pro recognition as a rookie. They followed that up with strong 2022 campaigns and guided the Bengals to another AFC Championship Game appearance.

Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne Jr.

Courtney Culbreath/Getty Images

Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne Jr. wasted no time making an enormous impact at Clemson. Both of them hopped more experienced players on the depth chart as true freshmen.

And the list of college accolades is extensive.

They combined for seven All-ACC and three AP All-American honors, along with winning a national championship in 2018. Clemson also reached the College Football Playoff in 2019 and 2020.

Lawrence and Etienne both headed to the NFL draft in 2021, and the Jacksonville Jaguars kept them together. Lawrence joined the list of first overall picks, and Etienne heard his name called 25th.

After poor coaching and injuries held them back as rookies, Lawrence and Etienne propelled the Jags to an AFC South crown in 2022.


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