Teams picking at the top of the NFL Draft never simply take the best player available. More variables go into the decision than just that, including how those teams view the rest of the draft. After all, there are six other rounds that follow the first round.
That in itself has become a prime reason behind the Ja’Marr Chase argument for the Cincinnati Bengals. The LSU wide receiver has become the favorite to go fifth-overall and be reunited with Joe Burrow.
Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated is among those who believe Chase will be the pick (though he did create an out for himself) because he knows Cincinnati is thinking about which offensive linemen will be available in the second and third rounds. He also mentioned that LSU personnel believe Chase is indeed joining Burrow’s team.
The Bengals sent personnel chief Duke Tobin to LSU’s pro day, and coach Zac Taylor’s only pro days this year were at Florida and Oregon. I also know, for the team, part of the equation has been what might be available for them at No. 38 and No. 69—in other words, if Chase is the pick, then what linemen will be there later, and vice versa? And one other thing that’s interesting, and I’ve heard this from a few people, is how people at LSU seem confident that Chase is going fifth. Right now, I’d go with Chase being picked here, while reserving the right to change my mind.
If—and at this point, when—the Bengals take Chase, they’ll surely be targeting at least one offensive lineman right after the first round. Personnel members Duke Tobin and Steven Radicevic have both alluded to the depth of this offensive line class this offseason, which is very much accepted throughout the scouting world. It makes sense that it’s influencing their decision to ultimately select Chase over Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell.
The LSU belief is interesting, but we’ve no way of knowing how true that is. Chase has obviously spoken to the Bengals and the school should be in-tune with their draft prospects. Maybe somebody important knows something.
We’re running out of days of this conversation being relevant. The NFL Draft kicks off this Thursday at 8:00 PM EST, and it can’t come soon enough.