Why Ja’Marr Chase will win Offensive Rookie of the Year

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase (1) . Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase (1) . Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports /

A wide receiver has won the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year award just once in the past 10 years, but the Cincinnati Bengals’ first-round pick Ja’Marr Chase has a legitimate shot at changing that. 

After another losing season by the Cincinnati Bengals, they saw themselves picking fifth overall in this past April’s NFL Draft. It was a foregone conclusion that the black and orange-striped jungle cats would be taking an offensive lineman after seeing the disaster they had on the field in 2020.

University of Oregon’s offensive tackle Penei Sewell was considered by many to be a generational prospect and one that the Bengals would do anything to have. Turns out, most people (including myself) were wrong. While Sewell was still on the board at number five, Cincinnati decided to take a different route and ended up selecting a wide receiver instead. While a lot of people did not agree with this pick (again, myself included), there were also a lot of people who did agree with it. But why? It’s actually a pretty simple explanation, but let’s take a deep dive into why this selection not only made sense but why it could prove to be an immediate payoff for the rookie receiver and his young quarterback.

The last time Ja’Marr Chase played a competitive game of football was January 13th, 2020 in the College Football National Championship Game against Clemson University where he ended up catching nine passes for a total of 221 yards and two touchdowns. The last time Ja’Marr Chase played a full season of competitive football was the 2019 college football season where he ended the season with 107 receptions for a total of 2093 yards and 23 touchdowns. Coincidentally, this also happened to be a historic year for Chase’s college quarterback Joe Burrow and the entire Louisiana State University’s offense. It’s safe to assume that Ja’Marr Chase was one of if not the number one favorite target for Mr. Burrow.

Fast forward to the 2020 NFL season and Joe Burrow had become the starting quarterback for the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals’ offense in 2020 included weapons such as rookie standout receiver Tee Higgins, star slot receiver Tyler Boyd, aging and unhappy wide receiver AJ Green, and not much else beyond that. Now in 2021, AJ Green is gone as well as running back Giovani Bernard who was tied with Green for third on the team in receptions (47).

While Higgins will look to keep improving and be a large, reliable target on the boundary, he will need a running mate on the other side while Boyd mans the slot. Ja’Marr Chase should be a day one starter in that offense and the Bengals clearly think so too after picking him fifth overall.

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Make no doubt about it, there will be some stiff competition for the 2021 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award. Jacksonville Jaguars number one overall pick Trevor Lawrence will be a clear favorite after being deemed the best quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck, and Atlanta Falcons number four overall pick Kyle Pitts is already being considered a major offensive threat in the NFL. Although I was personally against Cincinnati selecting Ja’Marr Chase instead of an offensive lineman at number five overall, it’s very clear that he has just as good of a chance to win this award as anyone. When you look at the numbers he and Joe Burrow put up the last time they were on the field together, it’s easy to see why. All the Bengals have to do is keep Burrow alive.