The AP Offensive Rookie of the Year debate was a fun topic throughout the NFL offseason. Names like Najee Harris, DeVonta Smith, Kyle Pitts, Trevor Lawrence, and Jaylen Waddle flooded social media and sports analysts alike. Although, no one has truly risen to the occasion like Ja’Marr Chase has.
Through seven games, Chase has accumulated 35 receptions, 754 yards, and six touchdowns. Chase has set the new receiving record for a rookie through their first seven career games. Currently, the all time rookie record for receiving yards in a season is 1,473, established by the great Bill Groman in the 1960 NFL season. Justin Jefferson came a close second with 1,400 receiving yards in his rookie season. Chase is currently on pace for 1,723 receiving yards over a 16 game-span, which would completely obliterate the previous record.
With the first ever 17 game NFL season, Chase could hit over 1,800 yards, although, we understand NFL players are not robots, Chase is bound to have a quiet game or two throughout the season. Even so, Chase has a lot of room for error to still break the record.
Every year, the NFL is introduced to tons of incredible stars who will eventually pave the way while their older teammates fade into retirement. The Chargers franchise was blessed to have Philip Rivers lead the way, and somehow the moment he leaves, Justin Herbert arrives to save the day. The previous AP Offensive Rookies of the Year include household names such as: Justin Herbert, Saquon Barkley, Alvin Kamara, Anquan Boldin, Randy Moss, Adrian Peterson, Barry Sanders, and Emmitt Smith, and the list goes on.
I fully anticipate Chase becoming a household name like the legends before him, but what separates Chase from the rest? Efficiency, efficiency, efficiency. Currently at 21.54 yards per reception (YPR), Chase has a higher YPR than any player to have ever won Offensive Rookie of the Year, he has the highest YPR of any NFL player this season, and he has the highest YPR of any player since DeSean Jackson in 2010.
Many critics claim Chase cannot possibly keep up this incredible deep play prowess, but to those I say, this is just what Chase does. It’s who he is. Over a two year span including the 2019 NCAA season and the 2020 NCAA season, the top three receivers with the most 20+ yard TD catches were: Ja’Marr Chase (14), Dyami Brown (13), and DeVonta Smith (13). Oh yeah, and Chase didn’t play a single snap in the 2020 NCAA season.
Second in the league in receiving yards, fourth in receiving touchdowns, and first place with the most receptions of 40 yards or more, Chase is doing all of this while being 24th in targets. Over the first three games of the season, Joe Burrow averaged 25 passing attempts per game. Since then, Burrow has averaged 34.2 pass attempts over his last four games. Chase had a corresponding increase in targets, going from 5.3 targets per game in the first three games, to 8.8 targets over the last four games. Bengals fans are watching Burrow blossom before their very eyes, and Chase is reaping the benefits. Already having a truly historic season, 21 year old Ja’Marr Chase is only scratching the surface.