Ja’Marr Chase’s Best Ball Fantasy Outlook: Can the Bengals Star Challenge for Overall WR1?

With a healthy Joe Burrow and possibly no Tee Higgins, is this the year Ja'Marr Chase finishes as the overall WR1? How early should he go in Best Ball drafts?

Cincinnati Bengals WR Ja’Marr Chase was still a WR1 last season but didn’t quite post the numbers fantasy football managers expected. With a healthy Joe Burrow back at QB and a new offensive coordinator, how should fantasy managers feel about Chase in 2024 Best Ball drafts?

Ja’Marr Chase’s 2024 Fantasy Outlook

Just one year ago, Chase was a consensus top-four pick and in the conversation for No. 1 overall. Now, he sometimes falls to the back end of the first round. What’s changed? Some of it is recency bias, as Chase’s 2023 season was significantly worse than his 2022 season.

Last year, Chase averaged 16.4 fantasy points per game, a whopping 3.8 points per game fewer than the year before when he finished as the overall WR4. Chase still put up WR1 numbers and finished as the WR11, though. The real “change” is not in Chase himself. Rather, it’s in the guys around him.

Minnesota Vikings WR Justin Jefferson missed seven games due to injury but was the same 20-plus-points-per-game guy when he was on the field. Miami Dolphins WR Tyreek Hill had the best season of his career, as did Dallas Cowboys WR CeeDee Lamb.

With Jefferson cementing his status as the superior fantasy asset, combined with Hill and Lamb pulling ahead, Chase has fallen to no higher than fourth at the wide receiver position. Add in San Francisco 49ers RB Christian McCaffrey and another 3-4 running backs you can argue ahead of him, and that’s how Chase suddenly becomes a potential bargain.

Whether or not Chase is actually a bargain requires figuring out why he took a step back last year. Chase caught 100 passes for 1,216 yards and seven touchdowns in 16 games. His yards per reception only changed by 0.2. Meanwhile, his yards per route run only dropped by 0.12 and his yards per target actually increased by 0.6.

The biggest factor was his target share dropping from 29.3% to 26.3%. While that’s not a massive decrease, it’s certainly enough to impact his production. Additionally, Chase never really got to play with a healthy Burrow at QB.

In 2024, we have no reason to believe Burrow will deal with multiple injuries, limiting him for half the season and costing him another half. WR Tee Higgins might be gone, but that would further solidify Chase’s target share.

If the Bengals lose Higgins and don’t replace him with a viable WR2, combined with Tyler Boyd’s potential departure, Chase is a virtual lock for a 30% target share.

If there is one knock on Chase’s fantasy profile, though, he’s been a bit more boom/bust than we’d like from an elite WR1.

Guys like Jefferson, Hill, and now Lamb rarely completely disappoint. Meanwhile, their ceilings are just as high as Chase’s. Chase, however, is far more prone to underwhelming games.

Over the past two seasons (28 games total), Chase has obviously been a WR1, but he’s scored below 13 fantasy points 13 times. To be fair, he’s also scored over 28 fantasy points five times, including three games of 32+ points and an absurd 52-pointer in Week 5 of last season. Even if we go back to Chase’s rookie season, the pattern is the same.

Should You Draft Chase in 2024 Best Ball Leagues?

There’s no denying Chase’s status as an elite WR1 and a surefire top-five pick at the position. But after three years, I think it’s fair to believe this is the player he is.

I would be thrilled to get Chase at the back end of the first round. Particularly in Best Ball, those game-breaking weeks are what you want. When Chase has his dud weeks, the hope is that someone on your roster can enter your lineup to counteract it.

KEEP READING: Fantasy Football Best Ball Strategy

At the same time, there is no longer a genuine debate about whether he should be taken ahead of Jefferson. The absolute highest anyone should take Chase is WR3, and after what we saw in 2023, it’s really hard to argue for Chase ahead of Lamb.

Fantasy managers should not shy away from Chase but should avoid reaching for him. If you want to build around wide receivers, I won’t argue against taking him as high as No. 5 overall after McCaffrey and the aforementioned three receivers are gone.

Ideally, though, you want to draft him in the second half of the first round, enabling you to pair him with a better second-round player and allowing you to potentially separate your team from everyone else if Chase does return to his 20-points-per-game ways.

With the fantasy football season behind us, why not start preparing for your rookie drafts with our dynasty rookie rankings? Additionally, as you look to improve your team heading into 2024, our dynasty trade calculator can help you find the perfect deal to boost your championship chances.

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