Looking at the roadmap scar on Joe Burrow’s knee, logic screamed that the Cincinnati Bengals use its first-round selection in the 2021 NFL draft on college football’s best offensive tackle.
After all, they can’t afford again for the former LSU Heisman Trophy winning quarterback and the first player selected in the 2020 draft to get battered again by opposing pass rushes and repeat adding new surgical scars.
So, Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell, a 6-5, 331-pound portable mountain seemed like the perfect fit as the fifth overall pick of the draft.
But what if LSU’s JaMarr Chase, who won the 2019 Biletnikoff Award as college football’s top receiver when he caught a nation-leading 20 touchdowns from Burrow (among his 84 catches for 1,780 yards), was still on the draft board?
The consensus from the Bengals, from their director of college scouting to their offensive coordinator to their head coach was they could always find a good tackle, but someone with Chase’s skill set is rare.
“It ended up he’s a guy that can make a difference in our offense, he’s so explosive,” Bengals’ offensive coordinator Brian Callahan said. “To me, he’s the best receiver that’s come out in the last three years. He’s worthy of that spot where guys like A.J. and Julio were drafted. It’s hard to pass up that kind of talent.”
Or someone with abundance of confidence, fueled by his work ethic and God-given talent.
“I’m going to break every record they’ve got, that’s my goal right there and I’m telling you right now,” said Chase on his first Zoom media teleconference after the Bengals couldn’t pass on him and took him No. 5 overall. “I don’t know how I’m going to do it, but it’s going to get done.”
Normally, NFL coaches and front office personnel would scoff at such bravado. But the Cincinnati braintrust has seen too much of Chase in person and on tape to doubt.
Mike Potts, the Bengals director of college scouting, saw Chase in September 2019 when he was scouting Burrow when LSU hammered Vanderbilt 66-38 in Nashville.
Burrow threw for 398 yards and six touchdowns and Chase had 10 catches for 221 yards for four TDs including first-half TDs of 64, 25 and 51 yards.
“I said to some other scouts that (Chase) is the best receiver in the country and he’s not even eligible for this draft,” Potts told Bengals.com. “I knew of him, but I was there to watch Burrow. To see (Chase) live, it was a jaw-dropping performance.”
Burrow told former Cincinnati wide receiver Cris Collinsworth the week before the draft that he didn’t watch Chase’s pro day when was timed in the 40 in 4.38 seconds.
“I know what Ja’Marr can do, he’s a lot like me,” Burrow said. “He was in there every Saturday with me throwing, getting up early. He’s that kind of guy. He’s a great person, great player. He just has a great way of getting open. He has a great feel for zone, great feel for man. He’s a complete player. He and I got along very (well).”
Chase is ecstatic to reunite with someone who made him a better player on LSU’s 2019 15-0 national championship team.
“I like the way Joe carries himself, he’s always calm, very collected and he’s not afraid to tell you something,” Chase said. “That’s something I love from my quarterback. Me and him are always on the same page, communicating about the defense and the offense. . I’m always willing to learn and have an open ear when Joe’s talking to me.”