With the No. 5 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Cincinnati Bengals landed LSU wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase, who could quickly make this one of the NFL’s most entertaining offenses to watch, something he already did at the college level alongside Joe Burrow.
The 2019 Biletnikoff Award winner and national title-winning teammate of Burrow, Chase led the nation with 20 touchdown receptions that season in 14 games, and his 127.1 yards per game ranked second nationally. He also had an SEC single-season record 1,780 yards on just 84 grabs (21.2 yards per catch).
In the College Football Playoff Championship vs. Clemson, Chase racked up 221 yards and two scores on nine grabs in LSU’s 42-25 win. He did much of his damage going against future first-round pick A.J. Terrell from Clemson.
Already sporting sky-high draft stock heading into his true junior season, Chase would opt out of the 2020 campaign knowing he was a near-lock to be a top-10 pick.
Coming into the draft, the Bengals were widely expected to take Chase or Oregon tackle Penei Sewell with the fifth pick. While Sewell is viewed as a franchise left tackle, the Bengals already had a good one in Jonah Williams, while Riley Reiff was signed to take over at right tackle.
Plus, this is an NFL where having three quality receivers is a must, especially if you don’t have a good pass-catching tight end. The combination of Chase, Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins has the potential to become the NFL’s best receiver trio and one that helps this franchise get back to playoff contention.
As for value, Chase was a near-consensus top-five prospect, even though several expects had him as the second-best receivers in this draft.
- ESPN’s Todd McShay had Chase ranked third overall in his final big board and first among wide receivers.
- ESPN analyst Mel Kiper had Chase ranked fourth overall and second among wide receivers (DeVonta Smith was first).
- The Draft Network ranked Chase sixth overall and second among wide receivers (Jaylen Waddle was No. 1).
- NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein gave Chase a 7.12 grade (Pro Bowl talent), the fourth-best of any prospect and second-best of any receiver (DeVonta Smith was No. 1). Chase also got a comparison to Torry Holt with this quote from an NFC executive:
“The way he accelerates is on a totally different level. He knows he can win one-on-one but once a coach puts more polish on him, he could be special.”
- The consensus big board by The Athletic’s Arif Hasan had Chase ranked fourth overall, so the Bengals got perfect value with the fifth-overall pick.
Looking ahead to his rookie season, Chase will almost certainly open the season as one of the starting boundary receivers opposite Higgins with Boyd in the slot. Given the fact that both Boyd and Higgins have shown they can be 1,000-yard receivers in this league, Chase will likely see a lot of single coverage in Year 1, though he’s expected to develop into the kind of No. 1 wideout that commands frequent double-teams and other unique coverages focused on him.