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Second-Year Scouting Report: Ja’Marr Chase

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Rookie get all the attention. They’re the flashy new piece that could be anything. And then a class of rookies comes through and they’re old news, replaced by the next flashy, new thing. But last year’s rookies aren’t gone, and in many cases they’re going to be even better than the exciting new pieces that are just showing up.

 

Of course, sometimes they won’t be, and that matters too. So as we head toward training camp, preseason and then the start of the 2022 NFL season, we’re taking a look at last year’s rookie class. What did we think about last year’s rookie class? What worked? What didn’t? And what’s the prognosis for them going forward?

Ja’Marr Chase, WR, Cincinnati Bengals

This edition involves a player all fantasy football players know: Ja’Marr Chase. The former four-star recruit chose LSU over 30 other offers (Fun fact: he was at one point a Kansas commit). Chase had a quiet freshman season in 2018, catching just 23 passes for 313 yards and three touchdowns in 10 games. That was just a precursor for a historic sophomore season in what could be the most prolific offense in the history of college football. The 2019 LSU Tigers won the National Championship behind Joe Burrow’s arm and a combination of Justin Jefferson and Chase at wide receiver. Chase finished first on the team in receiving yards (1,780) and touchdowns (20) despite finishing second behind Jefferson in receptions (84).

Chase elected to take advantage of the COVID-19 opt-out in 2020, sitting out the season to focus on training for his NFL career. The next time we saw the receiver, he was measuring in at 6-foot-0 and 201 pounds while running a 4.39 40-yard dash at his Pro Day. Chase was ultimately selected by the Cincinnati Bengals with the fifth pick of the 2021 NFL Draft, reuniting him with his college quarterback and adding him to a skill group including Joe Mixon, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd

Ja'Marr Chase 2022 Second-Year Scouting Report

What Went Right

Where to begin with Ja’Marr Chase? The rookie racked up 81 receptions on 128 targets for 1,455 yards and 13 touchdowns and won the 2021 NFL Rookie of the Year award. He arguably had the best rookie season in NFL history for a wide receiver during the Super Bowl era. Chase had 10 games with double-digit targets, five games with over 100 receiving yards (including two games with more than 200 yards), and three games with multiple touchdown receptions. The rookie receiver never went more than two consecutive games without finding the end zone in his first season while competing with two legitimate NFL receivers on the field with him. Clips like these became routine throughout his first season in the NFL.

His success continued throughout the playoffs as well as the Bengals made an unexpected Super Bowl run. The rookie averaged 8.75 targets, 6.25 receptions and 92 receiving yards in four playoff games while scoring one touchdown.

What Went Wrong

Pretty much the only thing that went wrong is he struggled to catch the ball during training camp. Those issues were relatively valid considering Chase led the league in dropped passes during his first season (11). However, when you’re capable of doing things like the clip below, drops don’t seem to matter too much.

Additionally, Chase had a lull in his efficiency during the middle part of his rookie season. From Weeks 8 to 15, Chase caught only 26 of 51 passes (51%) for 284 yards. He was able to buoy his fantasy value by scoring four touchdowns during that stretch. The concern was short-lived though since Chase averaged 11 targets, nine receptions and 195.5 receiving yards while scoring three touchdowns over the next two games.

Prognosis Heading Into 2022

Ja’Marr Chase is rightfully being drafted in the first round of fantasy drafts this year as the WR3 with an ADP of 6.63. Chase will once again be competing with Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd for targets, but he will once again function as the team’s WR1. There are reasons to believe that Chase’s production could grow in his second season. The Bengals were 27th in pace of play last season as they slowly brought Joe Burrow back from an ACL injury behind a terrible offensive line. This offseason, Cincinnati invested heavily in the offensive line in free agency, adding La’el Collins, Ted Karras and Alex Cappa as starting offensive linemen. The Bengals don’t need to be as concerned about Burrow behind an improved offensive line while being a year removed from a significant knee injury.

From Weeks 1 through 8, the Bengals averaged just 31.8 pass attempts per game as Burrow worked his way back into shape. After their Week 10 bye (including the playoffs), the team opened the offense up and averaged 34.1 attempts per game. If that trend continues in 2022, then Chase will have even more opportunities to put together consistent weeks of production on top of his boom weeks.

You can make a case for Chase to be taken as the WR1 overall despite the target competition, not just a first-round wide receiver. Picking between him, Cooper Kupp and Justin Jefferson ultimately comes down to a personal preference.

 

Dynasty Outlook

In dynasty, Ja’Marr Chase is competing for the overall WR1 title with Justin Jefferson. People who like Jefferson can point two his two years of exceptional production and a perceived role increase in a new pass-friendly offense. People who like Chase as the WR1 can point to his historic rookie season tied to his college quarterback for the foreseeable future. Regardless, Chase is a locked-in top-2 WR in dynasty formats and can be argued as the most valuable player in non-superflex leagues. If you have him, you shouldn’t trade him for anything short of a king’s ransom.

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