The Cincinnati Bengals think that rookie wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase is going to be an instant star. He had better be, as many on the outside still continue to question their decision to draft a wide receiver over offensive tackle Penei Sewell, whom many saw as one of the best prospects at his position to come out in some years, a position at which they have a clear need.
Chase can help quiet the talk by balling out, and it will help that he has his college quarterback with him, as the Bengals drafted Joe Burrow with the first-overall pick last April. Chase hasn’t played since that breakout 2019 college season, opting not to participate a year ago, but if they have any of that magic, it’s going to be a potent offense in Cincinnati, and the early signs are positive.
“Ja’Marr has been impressive. He picks it up really quickly”, head coach Zac Taylor told reporters yesterday, as transcribed by Myles Simmons for Pro Football Talk. “I know there’s probably some new terms that are crossover from some old terms he’s had that, like any young receiver, it takes a couple days to get adjusted to”.
“But man, he gets lined up quick, he knows what to do, he’s got great hands”, Taylor continued. “He’s everything we hoped he could be here through just the first couple of practices. But really excited to see when we can actually strap on the pads in training camp and see what his game looks like then”.
Of course, there’s a long way to go before he’s making any Pro Bowls. We’re literally in the first days of June and have just a small handful of OTA sessions under our belt. And wide receiver is a position at which it is relatively easy to look impressive. Not a knock against him, but just recall the training camp buzz around James Washington.
During LSU’s exceptional 14-0 national title run in 2019, Chase caught 84 passes for 1780 yards with 20 touchdown catches as a sophomore. He did not contribute a lot during his freshman season, and as mentioned, he opted against playing last year, so really, the Bengals are drafting him based on one season, but what a year that was.
The relatively small sample size in terms of production, however, hasn’t dampened enthusiasm around him, including from draft analysts, as he was with fair consensus the number one wide receiver in this class, which was by no means a shallow group. Alabama alone produced another couple of first-rounders at the position, including with the very next pick at six.
Five wide receivers in all went in the first round, and another five in the second, in a very rare year in which the Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t draft one. But they do return the stable of JuJu Smith-Schuster, Washington, Diontae Johnson, and Chase Claypool, who will have to compete with Chase for the distinction of the best wide receiver in the division.