Ja'Marr Chase

Bengals Sign Ja’Marr Chase

It’s officially official. On Wednesday, the Bengals formally signed first-round wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase. They also inked third-round defensive end Joseph Ossai, completing their ten-man draft class. 

Chase opted out of the 2020 season at LSU, but that didn’t bother NFL evaluators much. In the previous year, Chase set SEC single-season records in receiving yards (1,780) and receiving touchdowns (20). That same Burrow-led offense produced three skill position players that went in the first round of the 2020 draft, including Justin Jefferson. Chase, according to many scouts, is an even better prospect.

I thought Chase was on a different level [than Jefferson],” one scout told The Athletic earlier this year. “Watching what Jefferson did this year (with the Vikings), that just makes me say, ‘Good Lord.’ Honestly, I thought (Chase) was the best receiver in the class last year.”

All in all, Chase’s 27 career games (21 starts) saw 98 catches for 2093 yards and 23 TDs. He also notched eight career 100-yard receiving games, including three 200-yard showings.

Here’s the full rundown of the Bengals’ 2021 draft class — now signed from top to bottom:

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

North Notes: Chase, Steelers, Vikings

The Bengals encountered some scrutiny for passing on Penei Sewell to take Ja’Marr Chase at No. 5, given their issues on the offensive line. But the Chase-over-Sewell stance formed weeks ahead of the draft. Bengals brass went to Joe Burrow for a detailed opinion on this matter. Chase having played a key part in Burrow winning the 2019 Heisman Trophy, and Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com notes the second-year quarterback gave his ex-LSU teammate a strong endorsement. Chase-to-Cincinnati gained considerable steam ahead of the draft, and the Bengals followed through with the move to add the impact receiver prospect to a wideout group that includes Tyler Boyd and 2020 second-rounder Tee Higgins. The Bengals viewed Chase as the kind of talent too good to pass up, Fowler adds. The Bengals drafted offensive linemen in the second, fourth and sixth rounds, with Jackson Carman — whom the team selected after trading down eight spots — being the most notable of these additions.

Here is the latest from the North divisions:

  • Continuing recent tradition, the Raiders surprised draft viewers with their first-round pick. The Jon GrudenMike Mayock regime chose Alex Leatherwood 17th overall. The Alabama tackle was viewed by most as a major reach; Scouts Inc. rated him as this draft’s 60th-best prospect. The Raiders may have been leery of two teams eyeing Leatherwood in the back half of Round 1, however. The Steelers and Vikings had Leatherwood on their respective radars, per Fowler. The Vikings drafted Virginia Tech’s Christian Darrisaw (Scouts Inc.’s No. 20 overall prospect) at No. 23. Pittsburgh preferred him to most of the draft’s second-tier tackles, but the team appeared locked in on ex-Leatherwood teammate Najee Harris at No. 24. Leatherwood is expected to work as a right tackle in Las Vegas.
  • Although the Steelers’ depth chart has the look of one that would benefit from a veteran tackle addition, they do not appear to be eyeing one in the post-draft period of free agency. Despite Alejandro Villanueva defecting to the Ravens and the Steelers not drafting a tackle before Round 4, the team likes its left tackle setup, Mark Kaboly of The Athletic notes (subscription required). Pittsburgh lost three O-line starters — Villanueva, Maurkice Pouncey and Matt Feiler — this offseason and is planning to move right tackle Chukwuma Okorafor to the left side. Pro Football Focus viewed Okorafor as one of the league’s worst tackles in 2020, grading him 70th at the position. Okorafor spent the 2018 and ’19 seasons as a backup, moving into the Steelers’ starting lineup after Zach Banner‘s Week 1 ACL tear. Banner has re-signed and is expected to compete for the right tackle job.
  • Thanks to the Lions’ $13.5MM-per-year extension for Frank Ragnow, the NFL has a new highest-paid center.
  • The Bears did not become aggressive in their effort to trade up for Justin Fields until draft day, when they identified a few teams as trade-down candidates and engaged in negotiations.

Bengals Draft LSU WR Ja’Marr Chase

With the No. 5 pick in the NFL Draft, the Bengals selected LSU wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase. The pick reunites Chase with his old college pal Joe Burrow and gives the Bengals one of the brightest offensive talents in this year’s class.

In 2019, Chase set SEC single-season records in receiving yards (1,780) and receiving touchdowns (20). That same Burrow-led offense produced three skill position players that went in the first round of the 2020 draft, including Justin Jefferson. Jefferson, according to many scouts, is an even better prospect.

I thought Chase was on a different level [than Jefferson],” one scout told The Athletic earlier this year. “Watching what Jefferson did this year (with the Vikings), that just makes me say, ‘Good Lord.’ Honestly, I thought (Chase) was the best receiver in the class last year.”

After capturing the Biletnikoff Award as a sophomore, Chase opted out of the 2020 season. The 6-foot, 208-pounder may have a little rust to shake, but evaluators aren’t too concerned. Based on talent alone, some had Chase slotted as the third-best player in this year’s class, behind only Trevor Lawrence and Kyle Pitts.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Draft Notes: Mond, Offensive Run, Bengals

Here are the latest draft rumblings from around the league with the big event less than a week away:

  • We’ve heard endlessly about the top passers in this draft, but there’s an interesting group of second-tier guys as well. One of those second-tier guys is Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond, who apparently has a real shot to go earlier than most think. Several people have told Tom Pelissero of NFL Network (Twitter video link) that if any of the second-tier quarterbacks are going to be “the shocking first-round pick,” it could be Mond. The four-year SEC starter is currently expected to go off the board sometime on Day 2, but Pelissero notes there are a lot of things scouts love about him. This will be something to keep an eye on this week.
  • An interesting general draft note here. Obviously there’s going to be an early run on quarterbacks, but the drafting of offensive players isn’t going to stop there. There are a number of pass-catchers and O-linemen who could go off the board very early. In fact, there’s a scenario that could “definitely happen,” where each of the first ten guys drafted on Thursday are offensive players, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network tweets. Rapsheet says “plenty of teams” picking in the teens and 20s “have been buzzing about how many offensive guys will go early.” It would be the first time in draft history that no defensive player was taken in the top ten, Andrew Siciliano of NFL Network tweets.
  • The Bengals have made upgrading Joe Burrow‘s protection a priority this offseason, understandably so after he tore his ACL during his rookie campaign. They signed tackle Riley Reiff in free agency, and are expected to add help in the draft. Although they had been linked to Oregon tackle Penei Sewell early on, it looks like that help might not come in the first-round after all. There’s a “growing belief that the team is moving toward selecting LSU wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase, Tyler Dragon of the Cincinnati Enquirer writes (subscription required). Dragon notes Bengals exec Duke Tobin said the team would add offensive line help “at some point” in the draft. He writes that the team’s front office thinks this “draft possesses a rich crop of offensive linemen,” and that the organization thinks there will be “starting-caliber offensive linemen available in the second and even third round.”

Latest On Bengals’ Draft Plans

Three quarterbacks will almost certainly go off the board to start this year’s draft, marking the first time in 22 years that will have taken place. The Falcons are undecided on whether they should acquire Matt Ryan‘s heir apparent at No. 4. This puts the Bengals in position to land perhaps this draft’s top non-quarterback.

Picking fifth without a quarterback need, the Bengals will have a bevy of high-end offensive prospects from which to choose. Considering the issues they have had on their offensive line in recent years, they have been linked to Oregon tackle Penei Sewell. Zac Taylor, player personnel director Duke Tobin and offensive line coach Frank Pollack were in Eugene, Ore., for Sewell’s pro day, Tyler Dragon of the Cincinnati Enquirer tweets. Pollack told attendees Sewell impressed him, Tony Pauline of ProFootballNetwork.com tweets.

Sewell would make sense as a player who could be a long-term starter opposite left tackle Jonah Williams, but Tobin said the Bengals can acquire a starter-caliber lineman on the draft’s second night. Cincinnati has starter grades on O-linemen projected to go in the second and third rounds, Tobin said during a podcast with Bengals announcer Dan Hoard (Twitter link). Tobin added that the addition of veteran tackle Riley Reiff gives the team a better O-line outlook than it had in 2020 (Twitter link via ESPN.com’s Ben Baby).

Needs exist on the interior of Cincinnati’s O-line, and Tobin said more additions will take place. But the veteran executive understandably is not giving off the vibe the team must add an impact blocker early.

The Bengals also do not want to trade too far down from No. 5; they might not be interested in moving down at all. A best-player-available pick may suit the Bengals, who have included Joe Burrow in their pre-draft process, Tobin more or less confirmed (via Baby, on Twitter). Burrow has stumped for a Ja’Marr Chase reunion, according to Albert Breer of SI.com. The Eagles may well expect this to be the direction the Bengals go, with Breer noting Philly believes there is a good chance Cincy drafts Chase at No. 5. Possessing a greater receiver need than the Bengals do, the Eagles traded down from from No. 6 to No. 12 late last month.

The Bengals did not re-sign either of the top-10 receiver picks on last year’s roster — A.J. Green and John Ross — but have invested a first- or second-round pick in a wideout in three of the past five drafts. Chase opted out of his junior season but exploded for 84 receptions, 1,780 yards and 20 touchdown catches during Burrow’s Heisman-winning 2019. He and Burrow played together at LSU for two seasons.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFL Draft Prospect Profile: LSU WR Ja’Marr Chase

With so much talk about this year’s top quarterbacks, this would be a good time to cast the spotlight on college football’s consensus No. 1 wide receiver. Playing from both the outside and the slot, LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase has shown that he can break tackles and ankles with ease. On April 29th, he figures to be one of the first names called in Cleveland. 

Chase opted out of the 2020 season, though his decision wasn’t entirely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, he was aiming to stay healthy in advance of the draft, but who could blame him? With a promising pro career ahead of him plus millions of dollars from his rookie contract alone, there was little sense in Chase risking an injury. The 6-foot, 208-pounder may have a little rust to shake, but evaluators aren’t too concerned.

In 2019, Chase set SEC single-season records in receiving yards (1,780) and receiving touchdowns (20). That same offense produced three skill positions players that went in the first round of the 2020 draft, including Justin Jefferson. As good as Jefferson was, Chase was even better, capturing the Biletnikoff Award as a sophomore.

Based on talent alone, some have Chase slotted as the third-best player in this year’s class. Of course, quarterbacks always shift the early makeup of the board, and last week’s blockbuster trades may push Chase out of the top five. That’s just fine by the Dolphins, who have reportedly been eyeing the LSU Tiger since he was just a cub. After the Jaguars officially select Trevor Lawrence, it’s expected that Zach Wilson (Jets) and Trey Lance (49ers) will follow. If the Falcons and Bengals stay put, they’re likely to address other needs before delving into WRs.

Barring more trades or early-board surprises, Chase seems destined for South Beach. As the most pro-ready receiver in the draft, many believe that he’s on course for an even stronger career than his old teammate.

I thought Chase was on a different level [than Justin Jefferson],” one scout told The Athletic’s Bob McGinn. “Watching what Jefferson did this year (with the Vikings), that just makes me say, ‘Good Lord.’ Honestly, I thought (Chase) was the best receiver in the class last year.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

LSU WR Ja’Marr Chase Opts Out Of 2020 Season

College football’s consensus No. 1 wide receiver, LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase, will opt out of the 2020 season and declare for the 2021 NFL draft, as Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports was the first to report. Chase is viewed as a potential top-five pick.

According to Dodd, Chase’s decision was not necessarily due to COVID-19. The SEC is still planning to play its 2020 season in the fall (for now), and while NFL GMs may be hesitant to select a prospect who has not played since the 2019 season when the 2021 draft comes along, it’s hard to imagine Chase’s opt-out impacting his stock too much.

The 6-foot, 208-pounder was part of LSU’s juggernaut offense last year, setting SEC single-season records in receiving yards (1,780) and receiving touchdowns (20). That same offense produced three skill positions players that were selected in the first round of the 2020 draft, including Chase’s running mate, Justin Jefferson. As good as Jefferson was, Chase was even better, winning the Biletnikoff Award in his sophomore season.

Thus far, Chase is the highest-profile collegiate player to opt out, though other first-round prospects and tantalizing receivers like Wake Forest’s Sage Surratt and Purdue’s Rondale Moore have also made that decision. It seems likely that plenty of other players will follow suit.

Chase’s formal announcement is expected tomorrow.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.