The hype for Cincinnati Bengals rookie receiver Ja’Marr Chase is huge. The eye test and the numbers are in agreement.
In regards to the numbers, NFL.com’s Cynthia Frelund recently released the third installment of her 2021 rookie rankings for offensive skill players. Chase was projected to be the most productive of the seven receivers that were analyzed through her models.
Expectations for Chase are high, and not just because of his draft status and talent. As Frelund writes, his impact will be felt in the deep passing game where he was consistently open more than any other college receiver in 2019.
Last season, Cincinnati receivers averaged just 6.9 yards per target, the second-lowest mark in the NFL (NGS). According to Pro Football Focus, Chase leads FBS receivers with 14 deep TD receptions since 2019 — pretty remarkable, considering the LSU product opted out of last season. His 860 yards on deep passes in 2019 led the country. And in that national title campaign, Chase was computer vision’s most open receiver (judged by percentage of targets where he had at least 3 yards to work with) on passes intended to travel more than 10 air yards.
That Chase is already one of Cincinnati’s three starting receivers in their 11 personnel-heavy scheme only strengthens his opportunity to produce big time numbers out of the gate. Quarterback Joe Burrow was on pace to throw nearly 700 times last season, so even the expected decrease in pass attempts won’t hinder rational projections for Chase and his fellow receivers.
Chase hasn’t played football in over a year, but he’s not the same athlete he was when he and Burrow were at LSU. He’s even faster as a sprinter and even smoother as a route-runner if the testimonials from offseason workouts are any good.
Living up to the hype from his college days will be tough in the NFL, but Chase is in the right offense to do just that.