The Cincinnati Bengals selected LSU wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase with the fifth overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft on Thursday night, as he’ll reunite with Joe Burrow to begin his pro career.
After opting out of the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Chase wasn’t leaving anything to chance or resting on his laurels despite his absolute dominance in 2019.
“It’s very important for me [to be the first receiver picked], not just because I dreamed of it, but I worked my butt off to get here,” Chase said, per ESPN.com’s Alex Scarborough. “I don’t want nobody to take that from me. I’m not letting anyone take it from me. So I’m gonna keep working.”
A sub-4.4-second 40-yard dash at his pro day alleviated any concerns that Chase took his foot off the gas as an opt-out player or lacked the deep speed to be a complete No. 1 receiver.
Chase and Burrow formed the most electrifying passing game combination in college football history during the 2019 campaign. They connected on 84 passes for 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns, leading LSU to a national championship in the process.
Many projected Cincinnati to get offensive line help for Burrow, which would’ve been perfectly sensible, as Pro Football Focus ranked the Bengals’ unit 30th out of 32 teams in 2020.
However, left tackle Jonah Williams was a first-round pick in 2019, missed his whole rookie year and was out for six games last season. Cincinnati had numerous injuries up front, but with a healthy Williams returning and Riley Reiff signing to play right tackle in free agency, it stands to reason the Bengals will draft an interior offensive lineman in Round 2.
For now, Cincinnati should rejoice at the fact that Burrow is rejoining with a special playmaker in Chase with whom he has such a unique connection.
Chase joins a receiving corps that already has Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd. It wouldn’t be a shock to see Cincinnati add another wideout in the later rounds, though. This class is thought to be rather deep at the position, yet Chase is considered the crown jewel.
Not only does Chase have built-in chemistry with Burrow, but he also joins a promising group. Higgins had a stellar rookie campaign, and Burrow probably developed a better rapport with Boyd than anyone during his maiden NFL season.
Alabama’s Landon Dickerson and Ohio State guard Wyatt Davis are among the prospects who figure to be most prominent on the Bengals’ radar with the 38th overall pick. As long as they get that right, drafting Chase over the likes of Penei Sewell and Rashawn Slater will be fully justified.