The last game that Ja’Marr Chase played saw him catch nine passes for 221 yards and two scores from Joe Burrows while they beat Clemson for the National Championship. That was a great year.
But it is only the start.
The Bengals reunited the pair when they used their 1.05 pick this year to select Chase.
The Bengals drafted Joe Burrow with their 1.01 pick in 2020 after he won both a National Championship and the Heisman Trophy. Burrow had only two seasons as a starter, and after a very ho-hum junior season, he posted an incredible 5,671 passing yards with 60 touchdowns in 2019. He ran in five more scores and added 368 yards as a rusher.
After being drafted with the Bengals 1.01 pick, he threw for 2,688 yards and 13 touchdowns over ten games before blowing out his knee. He was on a pace for 4,300 yards and 21 scores as a passer, and 230 rushing yards with five running touchdowns. That would have ended around No. 12 as a fantasy quarterback as a rookie on a team with marginal pass options and an even worse offensive line. And a bad schedule.
Burrow’s recovery from a torn ACL has gone well, and he is expected to be ready for training camp. His rushing may decline in light of his knee, but his passing looks to improve.
Like Burrow, Chase only played in one season of any note and it was nothing short of jaw-dropping. After only catching 23 passes as a freshman, Chase paired with Burrow for a scorching 84 receptions for 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns. His season not only included nine 100-yard efforts over 14 games, but he topped 200 yards on three occasions that included the monster showing in the National Championship win over Clemson. He totaled eight receptions for 50+ yard touchdowns.
Burrow left for the NFL in 2020 and Chase opted out of the season because of COVID-19. Plus he really had nothing more to prove, and the Burrow-less Tigers spun through three different quarterbacks last year as they stumbled to a 5-5 season.
Sitting out the year didn’t hurt his draft stock. The Bengals took Chase with their 1.05 pick as the first wideout selected. That pick was speculated to be either OT Penei Sewell, who would shore up a below average offensive line, or throw caution (and a lot of passes) into the wind and reunite Chase and Burrow whose preference already carries weight around the War Room.
The outlook on Chase is high. He won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s best receiver in 2019. His ability is considered the caliber of a future Hall-of-Famer with incredible acceleration, flypaper hands, and 4.38 40-time speed from a 6-0, 201-pound frame.
He is elite in causing separation and can play from any wideout position and excel against all three levels of the secondary. He wasn’t just great in college, he excelled against the best defenses in the NCAA.
His only downside is if he’ll be rusty from sitting out a season. Already a noted workout warrior with a good work ethic, it would be a surprise if it takes longer for him to get up to speed. He’ll start from Week 1.
The 2021 season
Pairing Burrow and Chase together makes for a high-upside connection from a duo that absolutely destroyed the NCAA in their one magic season of 2019. He’ll join Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd as the starting wideouts. Chase takes the split-end role that can best use his speed and downfield threat. Higgins comes off a fine rookie season with 67-908-6 after 16 games. Head coach Zack Taylor enters his third season in Cincinnati with what should be one of the best three-wide units in the NFL.
Taking Chase delayed taking a much-needed offensive lineman but they used their second-round pick on OT Jackson Carman and brought in RT Riley Rieff to improve the blocking. The Bengals are still not elite with O-lineman, but at least they’ll be better than last year and could prove at least average – that’s a significant improvement over recent seasons.
The schedule is also kinder for 2021, with the passing strength of schedule going from 2020’s No. 21 to No. 12. Burrow has NFL experience now and appears ready to resume the fine showing as a rookie. Chase couldn’t ask for a better landing spot rejoining Burrow in an offense that spent their first-round picks on the pair over the last two years. Chase holds great appeal in dynasty leagues, but his upside as a rookie is just as high.
Chase has been going around mid-sixth round this summer as around the No. 27 wideout drafted. And you’ll never see him that cheap ever again.