Ja’Marr Chase’s fantasy outlook and projection for 2021

Few, if any, rookies are entering the 2021 NFL season with more excitement and expectations than Cincinnati Bengals WR Ja’Marr Chase. That same excitement is reflected in his current ADP, but does Chase’s fantasy football outlook suggest this is a smart selection based on projections?

Ja’Marr Chase’s fantasy outlook for 2021

It’s hard not to get wrapped up in the “what ifs” when it comes to Chase. Not only is he one of the most talented receivers in recent years, but he now plays with his former college QB Joe Burrow in the NFL. Burrow connected with Chase for 84 receptions, 1,780 yards, and 20 touchdowns in 14 games against the best of the best in the SEC. Chase was a true sophomore. 

On top of all of this, the Bengals are going to throw a ton in 2021. It may not be the 770 attempts Burrow was on pace for through Week 10, but it’s going to be a lot. The defense, while improved, is still going to struggle. This should require the offense to play catch-up should they go three and out a few times.

That’s perfect for fantasy, especially for players in the passing game. Tee Higgins was sensational as a rookie, but Chase is now the WR1 for the Bengals. He will eat up the majority of the 34.5% of vacated targets left by A.J. Green.

It is no longer waiting for second or third-year breakouts for receivers. Now, we expect them to produce in Year 1. If not, the panic button is well within reach. No receiver is more ready from a technical and physical standpoint than Chase to live up to expectations as a rookie. 

Ja’Marr Chase’s fantasy projection

While Burrow was on pace for over 770 attempts, that has to regress to the mean in 2021. I anticipate the Bengals running around 64 plays per game and pass approximately 60% of the time. That results in a total of 675 dropbacks. But when you factor in a questionable offensive line, I project roughly 630 passing attempts in my early run-through.

As the WR1, Chase should be in the range for 8 to 9 targets per game. If you just go with the middle ground of 8.5, that is still 136 targets in 16 games (21.5% target share). 

It is well within reason to see Chase with a stat line around 135 targets, 90 receptions, 1,200 yards, and 7 touchdowns as a rookie. And honestly, that could be a conservative projection. 

Ja’Marr Chase’s ADP

According to Sleeper, Chase is currently being selected as the WR20 with an ADP of 48.7 in PPR formats. In superflex leagues, given the priority of quarterbacks, he falls to 64.6. According to NFC (a high-stakes fantasy platform), Chase is the WR27 with a 65.64 ADP.

Should you draft Chase in fantasy in 2021?

It’s hard to talk someone out of drafting Chase given his lofty fantasy outlook. But, his ADP is at the point where there is little margin for error. I think part of this is due to Justin Jefferson. 

Everyone saw Jefferson obliterate the record books as a rookie, and since both he and Chase shared a field in college, the parallels are instantly drawn. Is that fair? No, probably not. But it’s where we are at as a community.

I’m not going to say Chase is a can’t-miss prospect. I was critical of him in the offseason in some areas. But the thought of what he could be in 2021 is too tantalizing to pass up. 

I do believe Chase lives up to the billing, and even at WR20, I would be willing to select him. Although, the WR27 ADP in NFC bakes in far more value. Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd are both falling due to the presence of Chase, and I will be targeting all three this year at different points in drafts. 

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Tommy Garrett is a writer for Pro Football Network covering the NFL and fantasy football and a member of the FSWA (Fantasy Sports Writers Association). You can read more of his work here and follow him at @TommygarrettPFN on Twitter.

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