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Ja’Marr Chase’s historic rookie season shows Bengals were right to draft him over Penei Sewell

Ja'Marr Chase, Jaylen Waddle, Penei Sewell

The Cincinnati Bengals had one of the best stories in the NFL this season. A true Cinderella story, the young team made it to the playoffs for the first time in five years, won a playoff game for the first time in 31 years, and made a strong case in Super Bowl LVI.

To get there, the Bengals finished the regular season with a record of 10-7 and the AFC North title. A lot of the team’s success can be attributed to the LSU duo of Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase. Burrow led his team to a Super Bowl appearance after suffering an ACL injury just one season prior.

Meanwhile, rookie Ja’Marr Chase was the Bengals’ first selection in the 2021 NFL Draft, and his regular and postseason performances assured Cincinnati that they made the right choice.

In 2020, the Bengals learned two things: they need protection for Burrow, and they need someone reliable for him to pass to. They had the fifth overall pick in last year’s draft and could go one of two ways in their selection. They could have chosen a wide receiver in Chase, which would (and did) give franchise quarterback Burrow an automatic offensive threat. They also could have selected an offensive lineman in Penei Sewell from Oregon to give Burrow the protection he lacked in his rookie season.

The Bengals did the right thing in prioritizing the passing game in 2021. Chase was only going to be a rookie once, and they had to capitalize on his potential, as well as his chemistry with Burrow. If they didn’t pick him up in the first round, another team would in a heartbeat.

The rookie gave the Bengals a remarkable amount of momentum. He finished the regular season with the best receiver stats in Cincinnati with 81 receptions for 1,455 yards and 13 touchdowns. He led the Bengals receivers again in the postseason with 25 receptions for 368 yards and one touchdown.

Chase’s number combined (106 receptions and 1,823 yards) are the best ever for a rookie in the NFL, according to NBC Sports. Chase and the Bengals’ success this season proved that the team needed a reliable receiver more than it needed an offensive tackle. Burrow was able to shift within the pocket and make quick plays because of Chase’s ability to break coverage and catch contested passes.

However, the Bengals need to focus on rebuilding their offensive line moving forward. Burrow was sacked 51 times in the regular season and 19 in four playoff games. He was fortunate to stay relatively healthy throughout the regular season but came out of Super Bowl LVI with a sprained MCL.