The Cincinnati Bengals drafted Ja’Marr Chase fifth overall to help Joe Burrow find his deep ball again.
At LSU, Chase and Burrow connected for 104 receptions, 2,093 receiving yards, and 23 touchdowns from 2018-19. As we know, that 2019 season resulted in nearly 6,000 passing yards and 60 passing touchdowns for Burrow, as well as a 15-0 season capped off with a National Championship victory over Clemson.
In Burrow’s rookie year in 2020, the Bengals’ passing game was on the verge of something special. There was just one area that Burrow struggled with: Going deep. John Ross never lived up to his draft status, while A.J. Green struggled getting back into football. Those two are gone, so the Bengals needed some help going deep.
The Bengals passed up on some quality offensive linemen to get Chase, hoping that he and Burrow will live up to their magical 2019 season at LSU.
Weight: 201 lbs
Hometown: Harvey, LA
Experience: first season
Chase signed his rookie contract on June 2nd, making him the last rookie to sign for Cincinnati.
He will only make $660,000 in base salary in 2021. His signing bonus was worth about $19.8 million, so $4,943,571 will be added to his cap hit. That adds up to a $5,603,571 cap hit for Chase this year.
Chase was considered one of the best receivers in Louisiana coming out of high school. Having played in the New Orleans area, LSU was a quick trip up the road.
Chase only had 23 receptions in 2018 as a true freshman, but when LSU’s offense exploded a year later, Chase was at the front of the pack.
In 2019, Chase caught 84 passes for 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns. He led FBS in receiving yards and set the SEC record for receiving touchdowns, resulting in a Biletnikoff award.
With a season like that on his resume and a global pandemic impacting college football, Chase took the chance to opt out of playing in 2020 and prepare for the NFL.
Most draft scouts thought Chase was the best wide receiver in his class, even above Devonta Smith, who broke Chase’s SEC touchdown record en route to winning the Heisman Trophy in 2020. While most would admit that Chase wasn’t a perfect receiver prospect, they would all say that Chase is talented enough to make up for his few minor shortcomings.
So that’s what the Bengals did. Despite having a glaring need on the offensive line, they passed up on Penei Sewell, who many Bengals fans called the next Anthony Muñoz.
In 2019, Burrow had a PFF ranking of 98.2 when targeting Chase deep. Chase and Burrow were better than any duo at the deep ball in the country. The Bengals are hoping that the two can reignite what they had at LSU.
Outlook for 2021
Chase’s job will be to help Burrow improve his deep ball, so Chase will be heavily involved in the offense. He’ll fit in seamlessly for A.J. Green at the X receiver spot, where he played in Burrow’s offense at LSU.
Barring any sort of injury, Chase will be on the field pretty much the whole game. Whether he lives up to his hype in Year 1 remains to be seen.
He hasn’t played football since January of 2020, so the preseason will break a year-and-a-half long hiatus. The adjustment to the NFL is tough, but it’s something else when you haven’t played in that long.
Thankfully, Burrow can help him along. With Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd on the field as well, pressure will be off Chase early on.
Not only is Chase a roster lock this year, but he has a great chance of playing out his four-year contract. The Bengals should expect to re-sign him in a few years.
Even if Chase has a rookie season comparable to Ross’, he was brought in for the long-term. He has a 100 percent chance of making the roster in 2021, and even if he has the worst season in NFL history, he will be back in 2022.
Roster odds: 100%
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