A lot has been made about the wide receiver class heading into the 2021 NFL Draft in less than two weeks. To most experts, LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase tops the list of what is a loaded class at this position.
The interesting dynamic here is that a Cincinnati Bengals team which has a direct connection to Chase is selecting fifth overall. Cincinnati has been linked to Chase in a big way, primarily due to the fact that his former teammate with LSU, Joe Burrow, is the franchise quarterback with the Bengals.
This link has not died down with the annual event approaching. In fact, Tyler Dragon of the Cincinnati Inquirer notes that the Bengals are targeting Chase at five to team up with Burrow. Here’s a look at three reasons why this marriage makes perfect sense.
Ja’Marr Chase would give Joe Burrow elite receiving threat
We saw Chase and Burrow dominate at a level that has not happened in college football history back in 2019 with LSU. This 6-foot receiver hauled in 84 passes for 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns in 14 games prior to opting out of the 2020 campaign due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That was part of the same season that saw Burrow put up north of 6,000 total yards with 65 touchdowns against six interceptions. Those are real numbers.
More so than those basic statistics, Chase is considered a generational talent at the wide receiver position.
“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,” an unnamed NFL executive said recently about Chase.
The idea of teaming Chase up with impressive 2020 second-round pick Tee Higgins and a solid veteran, Tyler Boyd, might be too hard for the Bengals to pass up on. Defense and winning in the trenches is seen as important. But getting back into the playoff race requires more talent on offense. Ja’Marr Chase would add that in a big way.
The Cincinnati Bengals need to build for Zac Taylor
There was some talk of Taylor being fired by Cincinnati after just his second season. Despite boasting a 6-25-1 record, this really didn’t seem to make too much sense. Taylor took over a six-win Bengals team that was transitioning from years of pedestrian performances under Marvin Lewis. The Bengals’ roster needed to be tore down. With this, came a need to start anew with a rebuild.
After showing some competitiveness under Burrow through the first 10 games, the rookie went down with a torn ACL. This stunted the growth of the Bengals’ roster. The short of this story? a 37-year-old Taylor still needs time to build his philosophy and change the culture in Cincinnati. Bringing in someone like Chase to work with his former teammate would help in that regard. If things don’t turn around, it’s not like a new head coach wouldn’t be able to get a lot from the Burrow-Chase tandem.
Other options behind Ja’Marr Chase are not great
I can’t envision a scenario where the Bengals opt to go defense with the fifth pick. That leaves Chase as one of the top options with tight end Kyle Pitts and left tackle Penei Sewell. Sure adding a blindside protector to the mix would be good for Joe Burrow long-term. With that said, Cincinnati is also just two years removed from selecting Jonah Williams with the 11th pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.
As for Pitts, he could very well be a dynamic threat in Taylor’s offense. That can’t be ignored. At issue here is whether Cincinnati believes Chase’s relationship with Burrow is more important than Pitts’ generational talent. At this point, I firmly believe that should outweigh what Pitts does.