The Bengals sat at number five in the 2021 NFL Draft and had a tough decision that ended up not being such a tough decision for them. They are linking back up Ja’Marr Chase with Joe Burrow. Chase is one of the top young dynasty wide receivers, but looking at redraft value, he has a chance to post WR1 type numbers in year one but is going to be a very stable WR2 at the least. He doesn’t have the speed of a Devonta Smith or Jaylen Waddle, but Chase is a dominant player ready to make a huge impact in both real and fantasy football. Like many of the recent top wideouts coming into their rookie years, the public is going to be high on them, and there won’t be much value when it comes to ADP. However, he is a safe bet for where he is going at the moment.
The last time we saw Ja’Marr Chase play football was in 2019 where he was the leading wide receiver on the LSU national championship team. He posted an 84-1780-20 line over 14 games. Chase had one full year in college, but that was all we needed to see of him to know the talent would translate to the next level. Chase is uber-talented and headlined a very good receiving class for 2020. As mentioned above, he links back up with his college quarterback, and the Bengals offense is looking like it will take off.
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Ja’Marr Chase joins a talented wide receiver group that saw the departure of long-term WR1, A.J. Green. I am high on year-one production for Chase, where volume is going to be there for an offense that should be gunning for points in a lot of shootout-style games. Chase should jump in as the top-targeted wideout, even with Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd. Consistent volume on a week-to-week basis is extremely important, and Chase is going to deliver a strong weekly floor.
Over the course of now 17 games, Chase is seemingly in line to cross the 1,000-yard mark. There will be a lot of comparisons to his former teammate, Justin Jefferson, who had an 88-1400-7 line in 2020. Chase has that type of upside for his rookie season but projecting him for a historic rookie receiving season would be a bit much when it comes to a mean projection.
Auction Price: $16
ADP is a bit altered at this point in the year, but he is going to be drafted where a lot of the stronger WR2s are going, which is rounds 4-5. He is going around names like D.J. Moore, Robert Woods, and Tyler Lockett. This is about the range I expected him to be drafted in. This is a very deep position where WR2s are a dime a dozen. However, you do have a small dropoff or at least some uncertainty with guys coming off an injury and then some dropoff in volume numbers. People will be really high on Chase and even take him a few spots ahead or reach even into a higher round if they have a long wait before their next pick. Given how deep the position is, I wouldn’t be hellbent on landing Chase in this range. You are already paying a heightened ADP/price because of his buzz and also the expectations that he will just put up Jefferson-type numbers.
Volume generally creates a very solid week-to-week floor and Chase projects for 100+ targets. His touchdown numbers are tough to predict, but he should be a five reception a game type player and be in the range of 64 yards per game. Chase isn’t a boom or bust type player that relies on the big plays to produce fantasy points, either. He should model the floor that DJ Moore and Robert Woods bring, where you can bank on them being around the 1,000-yard mark and 4-5 touchdowns minimum. I would be surprised to see him outside of the top-25 in WR scoring for half-PPR and PPR formats, and if the touchdown numbers are high in Year 1, he is headed for a special season.
Chase is going to have pretty high expectations in his rookie season, and the ceiling is already expected to be a top-ten fantasy wideout. That is certainly in the range of outcomes. He could certainly be in the 1,200-1,300 range for yards but would need to take a larger stranglehold on the targets. I’d expect that to be the case. Chase’s ceiling is a top-15 WR in year one. This would, of course, combine a higher production and some other names taking a step back or being injured.
Cincinnati Bengals Offense
The Bengals offense went through a lot in 2020. Joe Burrow played ten games before the ACL. Because we are talking about Chase on the Bengals, that is because they passed on Penei Sewell. Addressing the offensive line as a major need this offseason. They spent their 11th overall pick on Jonah Williams last season, which should make some strides in pass blocking before getting hurt at the end of the year. They also added Riley Reiff for a one-year plugin, and this is going to help a ton. They also added Jackson Carman, who was a part of a deep offensive line class in 2021. It’s a step in the right direction, but we will be hoping for at least average protection.
Cincinnati’s offense took a massive hit once Burrow went down last year, but he is expected to be ready for Week 1 and be at full strength. Cincinnati’s offense averaged 21.3 PPG before Burrow’s injury. With the uptick in offensive line production, a healthy Joe Mixon, and three solid wide receivers, this offense should be putting up numbers.
Strength of Schedule
The strength of schedule isn’t something I put a ton of stock into. There is so much that changes during the season and leading up to the season. Looking ahead based on offseason moves and last year’s numbers, it is a middle-of-the-road schedule for Chase and this offense. Cincinnati takes on three teams to start the season with some question marks in their secondary despite a track record of being tough, tough secondaries to beat. Cleveland has revamped their secondary, so Weeks 9 and 18 could be tougher matchups, but Baltimore and Pittsburgh both have secondaries I am not willing to shy away from this year.
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