CINCINNATI — The Bengals took Ja'Marr Chase with the fifth pick in Thursday night's NFL Draft.
"It came down to him being the best player that we thought was available at that time," offensive coordinator Brian Callahan said. "We really were excited that he was available. It gives us a chance to add some explosiveness to our team and to our offense. I’m excited to see him hopefully score a bunch of touchdowns for us.”
After months of debate between Penei Sewell and Chase, it was that simple.
Here are three reasons why Chase was the right pick at No. 5
The Better Prospect
For as much of a freak as Sewell is, most NFL teams and evaluators seem to have Chase ahead of him on their boards. There's a big difference between the two prospects on Daniel Jeremiah's big board. Dane Brugler has Chase ranked higher and the Bengals did too, which is why they took the 21-year-old at No. 5.
Chase is not only the highest-ranked wide receiver in this year's class, but he would be well ahead of guys like CeeDee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy and the stellar pass catchers that entered the NFL last year.
"We’re fired up to have Ja’Marr Chase. The things that he’s done, he’s one of the best receivers I’ve evaluated in the draft," head coach Zac Taylor said. "You can see the chemistry that he and Joe (Bengals QB Joe Burrow) had together in that 2019 season. He comes in and makes a difference. He adds to a great receiver room that we already have and gives us one more great playmaker to have. We’re really fired up how (the pick) shook out.”
Some think he's the next Julio Jones. Others believe he can be a bigger Steve Smith or a more explosive Anquan Boldin.
The Bengals had Chase higher than Sewell on their board. He addressed a major need and is a high-end talent. Anytime you can marry those two things in the draft, you do it.
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If the NFL Draft was only one round, then it would've been hard to pass on Sewell. Everyone knows the Bengals need to fix their offensive line.
This class of linemen is much deeper than this class of receivers, especially when you take into account what the Bengals were looking for at wide-out. They don't need a slot receiver or a big possession guy. They need a dynamic outside threat that can consistently win against No. 1 cornerbacks and stretch the field.
"We need to be more explosive. That’s one of the things that we lacked these last two years," Taylor said. "Adding a guy like Ja’Marr Chase when we already have TB (Tyler Boyd) and Tee Higgins. And then we’ve got good depth behind them as well. You look at some of the other playmakers we’ve got on offense, and we’re really excited about the direction we’re headed.”
On the flip side, there are at least a dozen offensive linemen that could come in and be a day one starter at right guard and/or right tackle for the Bengals.
Sam Cosmi, Teven Jenkins, Liam Eichenberg, Dillon Radunz, Landon Dickerson, Creed Humphrey and Jackson Carman are all still available.
Couple that with third-round targets like Walker Little, Ben Cleveland, Quinn Meinerz, Wyatt Davis, Jalen Mayfield, Brady Christensen and Spencer Brown and it's easy to see why the Bengals thought they could wait to address the offensive line.
Joe Burrow will benefit more from having a combination of Chase and one or two of those other lineman versus having Sewell, maybe another lineman and a third round wide receiver that might not fit what the Bengals are looking for.
Cincinnati played with three wide receivers 82% of the time last season. Finding someone that can play the 'X' position and win consistently on the outside was crucial. There weren't many receivers in this draft that will be ready to do that on day one. There are plenty of lineman that look ready to protect Burrow.
Skipping a Step
At some point the Bengals have to skip a step. They got their quarterback last offseason, but they still have plenty of holes to fill.
Pairing Burrow with a star receiver like Chase in an offense that already has Higgins, Boyd and Joe Mixon is exactly how to win in today's NFL.
Of course the offensive line has to improve, but if they don't address Burrow's weapons, we're going to be talking about wide receiver being a need a year from now.
There's a reason Tom Brady went to Tampa Bay and it wasn't because they planned on taking Tristan Wirfs in the first round. It was because they had Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and we're flexible enough to add guys like Rob Gronkowski, Antonio Brown and Leonard Fournette.
There's also a reason Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers reportedly wants out of Green Bay.
Weapons matter in today's NFL. The Bengals have to take multiple steps forward over the next couple of days.
They took one giant leap forward with Chase and that can continue on Friday night with the number of quality lineman that are still available.
"We’re hungry as can be to stack some wins together and give our fans and the people of Cincinnati something to be excited about to come cheer on Sundays," Callahan said. "It came down to him being the best player that we thought was available at that time. We really were excited that he was available. It gives us a chance to add some explosiveness to our team and to our offense. I’m excited to see him hopefully score a bunch of touchdowns for us.”
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