Following an impressive LSU Pro Day on March 30, Ja’Marr Chase is the hottest wide receiver commodity on the market. Ahead of the 2021 NFL Draft, rumors have circulated that Cincinnati Bengals QB Joe Burrow is pushing hard for a reunion with his former No. 1 target. However, according to sources close to Pro Football Network’s Chief NFL Analyst Trey Wingo, that simply isn’t true.
Talking on the March 31 episode of Draft Insiders, Wingo stated: “You’ve heard a lot this week about Joe Burrow potentially lobbying for Ja’Marr Chase. I can tell you that I got a text today from a member of the Bengals coaching staff that said, ‘I’ve seen that out there. Not sure where that came from. That’s not Joe, that’s not how he is at all. He gives us great intel on LSU guys but is respectful of his role as a player and ours as coaches and scouts.'”
You can watch Wingo discuss this in the clip above. Be sure to join PFN Chief NFL Analyst Trey Wingo and Chief Draft Analyst Tony Pauline every week on Draft Insiders as they break down all you need to know heading into the 2021 NFL Draft. Subscribe to the PFN YouTube Channel and hit the notifications icon so you can tune in live every Wednesday at 9 PM ET.
The case for Chase at No. 5 in the 2021 NFL Draft
So, why are these rumors linking the Bengals to Chase surfacing now? Well, the recent flurry of blockbuster trades prior to the 2021 NFL Draft has put the Bengals in a prime position to land the former LSU pass catcher. The Miami Dolphins were originally the suspected landing spot for Chase as they are in dire need of an elite wide receiver.
Nonetheless, their trade out of the No. 3 overall pick with the San Francisco 49ers has heightened the possibility that we see a historic run of four quarterbacks selected with the first four picks this year.
Despite drafting Tee Higgins in the second round last year, the departure of A.J. Green leaves the Bengals with a hole to fill in their wide receiver room. What better way to fill it than by reuniting their young QB with his former LSU teammate? In 2019, the duo connected for 84 receptions, 1,780 receiving yards, 20 touchdowns, and ultimately a national championship for the LSU Tigers.
As Wingo alludes, it just makes sense
Wingo said, “You see that stuff out there and it makes sense. He [Burrow] had great success with Ja’Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson, that amazing year leading up to the national championship game.”
The last time we saw Chase on the football field, he brutalized cornerback A.J. Terrell (who now plays on Sundays). After opting out in 2020, the former LSU wideout bolstered his 2021 NFL Draft stock with an electric performance at the LSU Pro Day.
He demonstrated his incredible athletic profile with a speedy 4.38-second 40-yard dash, a phenomenal 41-inch vertical jump, and an 11’0″ broad jump. Testing off the charts on Tuesday solidified his place atop the WR class and kicked the rumor mill in motion.
The Bengals’ other options include protecting their franchise QB
Just because Burrow isn’t actively lobbying for the Bengals to draft Chase doesn’t mean that he isn’t an option. However, there are plenty of other alternatives for Cincinnati when Roger Goodell puts them on the clock in Cleveland. There are multiple delectable possibilities at the wide receiver position. Additionally, there’s All-World tight end Kyle Pitts, who — similar to Chase — tested off the charts on Tuesday.
According to Pro Football Network’s Chief NFL Draft Analyst Tony Pauline, one option makes more sense than the others.
Pauline: “You’ve got to protect Joe Burrow. Pitts is going to give them a lot of food for thought, as will Ja’Marr Chase. My feeling all along is that [Penei] Sewell makes the most sense to protect Joe Burrow.”
Pauline is, of course, referring to Oregon left tackle Penei Sewell
Considered one of the top players in the 2021 NFL Draft, Penei Sewell heads up an impressively deep offensive tackle class. Despite having former first-round pick Jonah Williams on the roster, the need to protect their signal-caller is starkly obvious for the Bengals.
After replacing Andy Dalton as the Bengals QB, Burrow impressed last season despite playing behind a porous offensive line. The rookie quarterback was sacked a ridiculous 32 times in 10 games. That equated to him being sacked on 7.3 percent of his passing attempts. That unsustainable amount of pressure ultimately led to Burrow suffering a season-ending knee injury in Week 11.
Whether they opt for protection or a receiving threat, it seems that Bengals QB Burrow isn’t actively lobbying for his former teammate. That doesn’t rule Chase out, of course, and the Bengals know that whatever decision they make on draft night, they’re in an excellent position to improve on April 29.
Wingo (quoting Cincinnati source): “We’ve got a lot of really good options.”
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Oliver Hodgkinson is a staff writer for Pro Football Network. You can follow him on Twitter at @ojhodgkinson.