Ja’Marr Chase should now be the favorite for OROTY, as his first season in the NFL for the Cincinnati Bengals has been a record-breaking one so far.
Many thought, coming into this season, a quarterback would win offensive rookie of the year. However, that has not been the case at all in 2021, despite five quarterbacks being drafted in the first round this past year.
Former Alabama quarterback Mac Jones (selected 15th overall) has been the most consistent out of the bunch of first-round rookie quarterbacks. However, he is not being asked to do as much for the New England Patriots, due to their system, and has struggled for a stretch of games.
Former Alabama wide receiver Jaylen Waddle could’ve also been in the discussion, as he was taken one pick later than Chase at sixth overall. The Dolphins rookie receiver has already broken a few records for Miami and is on pace to break the rookie reception record for the season (99 catches currently), which was set by Anquan Boldin with 101 catches in 2003.
While it is still close heading into the final week of the regular season, former LSU WR Ja’Marr Chase (selected fifth overall) should be the favorite to win offensive rookie of the year in 2021.
The Bengals top target certainly saved the best for last; dominating the stat sheet with 11 receptions, 266 receiving yards, and three touchdowns. This was also in a close but much-needed win, as Cincinnati beat the 11-5 Kansas City Chiefs 34-31 in Week 17 to clinch a playoff berth.
Chase, with that impressive performance, broke the rookie receiving yards record (in the Super Bowl Era) with 1,429 yards on the season. Who was the former record holder? His former LSU teammate Justin Jefferson, who was also a former first-round pick (22nd overall in 2020) and set it at 1,400 yards last year as a rookie for the Minnesota Vikings.
Now both are top four in receiving yards this year; with Jefferson at 2nd, with 1,509 yards, and Chase at fourth on the list. The LSU WR duo is certainly making names for themselves by setting record-breaking numbers back to back years, with Jefferson breaking Odell Beckham Jr.’s record for most receiving yards in their first two seasons.
Ja’Marr Chase is the fifth rookie receiver ever to eclipse over 1,000 receiving yards and 10 receiving touchdowns in a season, on top of all the records he has been smashing in 2021. The single-game rookie receiving record was also broken, as the previous record was held by Jerry Butler (255) in 1979.
The record for most receiving yards in a game for a Bengal was also set last week (Chad Johnson with 260 in 2006), as Chase is the first rookie receiver with multiple 200+ rec yards since 2013 and is now 2nd in rookie receiving touchdowns behind Randy Moss (17). At the age of 21, only Chase and Moss have had more than 1,200 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns in their rookie year.
Ja’Marr Chase is only continuing his college success in destroying defenses into the NFL, as he was a big part of the 2019 undefeated LSU Tigers that won the National Championship that year. He sat out in 2020 as an opt-out, due to COVID concerns, but his 2019 was one to remember and good enough to still make him a top five pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Chase tore it up that year, catching 85 passes for 1,780 yards with 20 touchdowns as the best receiver in college football.
He now catches passes from former LSU teammate and now Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow, who also broke a few records himself recently as the former number one overall pick in 2020. His performance over the last two weeks could’ve elevated him to one of the truly elite quarterbacks in the NFL.
Along with Chase, Tee Higgins has also had a breakout year when he has stayed healthy in 2021. Both receivers complement Tyler Boyd, who does his damage in the slot. These pass catchers are balanced out by a top-tier run game, which is led by Joe Mixon. Now relatively healthy, compared to previous years, Mixon is proving why he is still a top back in the NFL. He is only behind Jonathan Taylor in rushing yards, with 1,159 on the ground, and is 4th for rushing touchdowns (with 13).
One thing is for sure, Chase and his problems of “drops” should’ve never been that big of a concern, as his elite athleticism was showcased week in and week out as an elite deep threat. The connection between Burrow and Chase is almost telepathic, as Burrow shows no fear in targeting him as the number one receiver in that offense. Chase, despite a few rocky games stat-wise, should’ve not been doubted in the first place and the potential was always there for him to thrive as a potential number one wide receiver in the NFL.
As the 2021 AFC North Champions, the 10-6 Bengals look to take advantage of this momentum to hopefully stay consistent for the coming weeks. With their lethal offense, Cincinnati has the tools to potentially be dangerous in the playoffs but only if they can bring these types of performances into the games that really matter. Ja’Marr Chase and the rest of the offense coming up big in the playoffs will be the key if they potentially want to get to the Super Bowl.