Opposing defenses might need to call 9-1-1 for years to come in the Jungle. The Cincinnati Bengals picked the player most were expecting on Thursday when they selected LSU wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase with the fifth pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
No. 9 Joe Burrow reunites with No. 1.
The Bengals have eight selections in this year's draft, and I'll be breaking them down "Three Down Look" style all weekend. Let's kick things off with the 2019 Fred Biletnikoff Award winner.
1st Down: Positional Impact
Chase immediately fills a large void on the outside for Cincinnati. The Bengals have ranked first and second under Zac Taylor in three-receiver set usage over the past two seasons (78% and 82% of snaps). Drafting Chase allows them to retain this identity following A.J. Green's departure.
Last season, Green was third on the team in snaps (820) and led all receivers. Pair that with 104 targets, just six behind the team lead, and you get a clear void left by the seven-time Pro Bowler. Green was tied with Devante Parker as the NFL's worst separation-receiver in 2020 (1.7 yards per pass). He caught just 45% of his targets. Chase should blow both those marks out of the water in his rookie campaign.
Speaking of floors, NFL Next Gen has pegged Chase with a 24% chance to make a Pro Bowl within his first three seasons. That is the highest percentage of any receiver selected over the past four draft classes. The connection between Burrow and Chase already sparked a national championship run at LSU. They'll look to recapture that magic in Cincinnati.
The Bengals can now roll out three-receiver sets with Tee Higgins and Chase on the outside and Tyler Boyd in the slot. Matching up to that weaponry should be a nightmare, and it could unlock the deep passing game. According to Sharp Football Analysis, Cincinnati Ranked 30th in explosive passing offense last year.
Burrow struggled with accuracy at certain times and shaded receivers during others. Chase and Burrow showed what they're capable of down the field in 2019. Chase finished with the third most yards per catch in the country (21.19 YPC). Mix in a 98.2 Pro Football Focus grade when targeting Chase on 20-plus yard throws, and the opponent's dreams become nightmares.
2nd Down: Wow! Highlight
These two plays stood out to me above the rest because of the physicality and competition.
It doesn't get much bigger than that, especially with the type of seasons these two teams were having. Chase answered the bell with six catches for 140 yards and a touchdown despite being matched up against Trevon Diggs. The work Chase puts on the Cowboys' 2020 second-round pick is dangerous. Diggs was in the midst of an All-American-level senior season, and Chase tossed him around all afternoon as a 19-year-old sophomore.
The physical nature at the line of scrimmage sets Chase above the rest of his peers.
3rd Down: Stat To Know
Chase didn't get to workout at this year's canceled NFL Combine, but he put on a show during his pro day, namely in the short shuttle drill. Chase ran the short shuttle in 3.99 seconds, becoming the first receiver (invited to the combine) to break four seconds since Amari Cooper notched a 3.98 in 2015.
Welcome to The Jungle, Ja'Marr Chase.
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