Tee Higgins, a second-round pick last year, tied the rookie receptions record originally set by Cris Collinsworth with 67.
Chase wants all that and more – his individual goals are to win Rookie of the Year, grab 10 touchdowns (which would be a rookie record) and at least 1,500 yards for the season, which would smash the rookie record and be an all-time single-season best. Those are lofty goals for anyone, especially after not playing 2020 after opting out of the season.
“My game will make a tremendous jump,” Chase said. “I just don’t know where. When I get back to practicing and back to feeling like myself, I know I’ll have a great season.”
Chase has good reason to be confident. He kept a list of his goals on a mirror in college and grew accustomed to achieving them, while compiling an FBS-leading and SEC record 1,780 yards receiving and 20 touchdowns during the 2019 national championship season with Burrow and the Tigers.
The 6 foot receiver had the same kinds of goals in college as he does for his rookie NFL season – he wanted 1,500 yards, 10 touchdowns, 100 yards a game and the Fred Biletnikoff Award – all of which he obtained.
Being the fifth pick of the draft was not on his list.
“I just wanted to be drafted,” he said. “That was the biggest happiness I had all night — being drafted. Everything else fell into place.”
Many thought Cincinnati would opt for an offensive lineman to help better protect Burrow, who is coming back from an ACL/MCL tear that occurred when his pocket collapsed on him in his 10th game.
Coach Zac Taylor said the addition of veteran tackle Riley Reiff in free agency, plus the depth of the offensive linemen in this draft class, gave the Bengals more flexibility to get the player they really wanted.
“There were a lot of great options, but we’re fired up to have Ja’Marr Chase,” Taylor said. “The things that he’s done, he’s one of the best receivers I’ve evaluated in the draft. You can see the chemistry that he and Joe (Bengals QB Joe Burrow) had together in that 2019 season. He comes in and makes a difference. …
“He understands the ins and outs of playing receiver. He’s got great route understanding and great scheme recognition. They’re not 50/50 balls, when he’s in there — he does such a phenomenal job of positioning his body and going up and making plays and finishing plays off. That’s really one of the things – he’s got speed and he’s got great hands, but his ability to make that first man miss or break that first tackle to get additional yardage there is really exciting to watch when you turn on his tape from 2019.”
Taylor said Burrow wasn’t necessarily lobbying for Chase but when Taylor asked on a scale of one to 10 how much he would enjoy playing with Chase again, Burrow’s answer of 10 was all the third-year needed to hear.
Chase said having Burrow as his quarterback will help him make an “easy” transition. Burrow has a calming presence, according to Chase, and the two communicated well and always seemed to be on the same page at LSU.
Despite how it appeared wearing black, orange and white shoes at the draft, Chase didn’t have a preference where he landed but was excited for the opportunity.
“I didn’t care where I went,” Chase said. “It’s just a blessing to be here. I wanted to just get drafted by anyone. It’s a blessing to say I got as high a pick as fifth. That’s a high pick. That’s higher than Jamaal Adams — I’m going home to my friends and laugh about this. It still doesn’t feel real at the moment, so I’m just going to enjoy it and soak it all in.”