NFL News & Analysis

Premium Content Sign Up

Renner: Cincinnati Bengals WR Ja'Marr Chase is proving the true value of a WR1

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase (1) breaks tackles as he takes a reception 82 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter of the NFL Week 7 game between the Baltimore Ravens and the Cincinnati Bengals at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore on Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021. The Bengals moved into the top of the AFC North with a 41-17 win over the Ravens. Cincinnati Bengals At Baltimore Ravens Week 7

One of the hottest debates of the 2021 NFL Draft came right in the middle of the top 10. The Cincinnati Bengals, one year removed from selecting quarterback Joe Burrow with one of the least-debated first overall picks of the last decade, had two choices: They could go with the “generational” offensive tackle prospect to protect Burrow, or they could reunite their signal-caller with his No. 1 target from college. It was a debate that raged on all spring.

Click here for more PFF tools:

Rankings & ProjectionsWR/CB Matchup ChartNFL & NCAA Betting DashboardsNFL Player Props toolNFL & NCAA Power Rankings

Burrow got beat to a pulp in his rookie season. He was sacked 32 times and hit 44 more times in only 10 games. The final hit tore his left ACL and led to an offseason of rehab that carried into training camp this summer. And with elite talents at offensive tackle and receiver staring the Bengals in the face at Pick No. 5 last April, it was far from an easy choice.

Through seven games, any and all criticism of their selection of Ja'Marr Chase has ended up on @OldTakesExposed. The fifth overall pick now has 754 receiving yards, the most of any rookie through their first seven games. The 5-2 Bengals are not only in first place in the AFC North, but they are also tied for first in the entire AFC.

They have resoundingly beat down division foes in Pittsburgh and Baltimore, with Cleveland coming up in a couple of weeks. The Bengals were correct.

Chase’s emergence underscores something PFF has long been a proponent of — the high-end value of a true No. 1 receiver.

For the Cincinnati offense, the difference has been staggering. They’ve gone from .005 expected points added (EPA) per dropback in 2020 to 0.203 in 2021, a move from 26th in the NFL to ninth. That difference, as you can see in the chart below, can almost be solely attributed to Burrow's college teammate.

Subscribe to PFF Edge to continue reading

Already have a subscription? Sign In

You've got the first pick with your finances. Western Southern Financial Group.

NFL Featured Tools

  • Live picks, grades and reaction to the 2022 NFL Draft.

  • PFF's Big Board for the 2023 NFL Draft offers three-year player grades, combine measurables, position rankings, and in-depth player analysis for all of the top draft prospects.

    Available with

  • 250+ three-page scouting profiles - advanced stats, 3-year grades, player comps, combine data and Senior Bowl grades - for the 2022 draft class.

    Available with

  • PFF's exclusive metrics provide matchup previews, position rankings, grades, and snap counts.

    Available with

  • Our exclusive database, featuring the most in-depth collection of NFL player performance data.

    Available with

Pro Subscriptions

Unlock NFL Player Grades, Fantasy & NFL Draft

$9.99 / mo
$39.99 / yr

Unlock Premium Stats, PFF Greenline & DFS

$34.99 / mo
$199.99 / yr