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Countdown to 2021 fantasy football drafts: Ja’Marr Chase No. 75

Bengals rookie WR comes in at 75 in our fantasy football rankings countdown to the 2021 NFL season.

Ja’Marr Chase (LSU) poses with a jersey after being selected by Cincinnati Bengals as the number five overall pick in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft at First Energy Stadium.  Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Ja’Marr Chase opted out of last year at LSU, but his 2019 season was a truly remarkable one, as the Tigers put up record breaking numbers with Joe Burrow and Chase on their way to a National Championship. Chase caught 84 passes from Burrow, for 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns that season for a lofty 21.2 yards per reception. And this year he’ll once again have Burrow tossing him deep balls after the Bengals took him fifth overall in the 2021 NFL Draft. Given what we saw from Burrow last year before his season-ending injury, that could mean big fantasy possibilities for the rookie receiver.

To commemorate the 2021 NFL season, we’ll be counting down the 75 best fantasy football players in the league. Picking a Top 75 is subjective, especially when you are projecting a whole season of accumulated fantasy points, but that’s part of the fun. We’ll assume what I see as an average league, which is 12 teams, .5 PPR scoring and a roster of 1QB, 2RB, 3WR, 1TE, & 1RB/WR/TE. Kickers and defenses need not apply.

Change is the nature of the NFL beast, so trades and injuries will likely impact this list as we go along, but hey, this isn’t rocket science. We’re here to have a little fun and build up some much needed anticipation for a league cast in the shadow by baseball, soccer, hockey, etc. Sarcasm aside, the NFL is addictive and we’re here to give your daily fix as we close in on the season.

The official and often updated fantasy football drafting tiers can be found here.

No. 75, Ja’Marr Chase, Cincinnati Bengals, WR

Chase, like all rookie receivers is hard to rank in fantasy football. In the past we’ve seen rookie receivers take a couple years before they get their footing, but there have also been plenty of exceptions. Last season it was Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson who took the fantasy world by storm, even surpassing his teammate Adam Thielen in fantasy clout.

Competition for touches

Can we expect a breakout performance from Chase as he returns to the field with his old college quarterback? The connection between the two is likely overblown as they both acclimate to the NFL and Zac Taylor’s offense, but it sure can’t hurt. The real question comes down to how much work will Chase get with Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd already established in the offense? And then, how effective will the offense be as a whole, allowing chase to find important scoring opportunities?

Team offensive expectations

Burrow was inconsistent his rookie season as expected. He put up big numbers on the Browns both times they played and topped a 63 percent completion rate in every game but one. His season ended against Washington in his 11th game and he only managed to lead his team to two wins and a tie in that span. The good news is that he wasn’t over his head and coach Taylor let him air it out, as he threw the ball 37 times a game. He’s on track to be a full go by training camp and he and Chase will have a full offseason to get back on the same page.

What’s his upside?

We know what Chase’s potential as a top No. 1 wide receiver in this league looks like and the Bengals offense appears poised to put up numbers, especially as their defense puts them in deficits. Chase has upside to win that No. 1 spot sooner than later, which would probably put him higher than the 75th best fantasy player this season. But as it is, there will likely be growing pains. In the end, I still expect a solid debut season from the No. 5 overall pick.

What’s his downside?

The downside is real. As a rookie on a team that is still missing pieces on the offensive line, the offense could have trouble. Add in the fact that Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd have played well and will demand targets, Chase could feel the squeeze. The hope is that passing volume will be enough that efficiency won’t have to be great for Chase to break out for a big gainer each week to pad his likely inefficient stats.

Projection

70 receptions, 105 targets, 900 yards, 6 touchdowns