A Joe Burrow-Ja'Marr Chase Reunion Could Be NFL's Next Great Offense

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistApril 1, 2021

LSU quarterback Joe Burrow (9) celebrates with wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase (1) on their touchdown pass play during the second half of the team's NCAA college football game against Texas A&M in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019. LSU won 50-7. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

When 2019 Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow completed 76.3 percent of his passes for 5,671 yards and 60 touchdowns to just six interceptions in one of the greatest passing seasons in college football history, LSU teammate Ja'Marr Chase accounted for nearly one-third of those yards and exactly one-third of those touchdowns as a receiver. 

A true sophomore at the time, Chase was a unanimous All-American, a first-team All-SEC wideout and the winner of the Fred Biletnikoff Award, which goes to the top wide receiver in college football. 

That was the last we saw of Burrow and Chase together, or Chase in general because he opted out of the 2020 campaign at LSU while Burrow shined in an abbreviated rookie campaign with the Cincinnati Bengals

But two particular predraft developments have given rise to the possibility that the duo could reunite in Cincinnati this fall. 

First, there was last week's trade between the Miami Dolphins and San Francisco 49ers.

With San Francisco clearly moving into the No. 3 spot in the draft to land a quarterback, and with signal-callers already likely to land with the Jacksonville Jaguars first overall, the New York Jets (or a trade partner) second overall and possibly even the Atlanta Falcons fourth overall, the Bengals could find themselves with the pick of the non-quarterback litter when they're on the clock with the No. 5 overall pick on April 29. 

Ever since it became obvious he'd be their top pick in the 2020 draft, the Bengals have appeared determined to prove to Burrow that they mean business about honoring his desire to be with a competitive team.

Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

They promised they'd be more heavily involved in free agency, and that's been true for a team that usually sits out that process. This year, they've seemingly doubled down on that. 

"I think we have one of the premier, best young quarterbacks in the game, and we're going to do everything we can to build around him," Bengals Director of Player Personnel Duke Tobin said last month. "It's going to start with him."

Even if Burrow doesn't openly lobby for Tobin and Co. to draft Chase, bringing in Burrow's most productive weapon from the best season of his football life would seem like a smart way to make him as happy and effective as possible in his return from knee surgery. 

Then, there was Chase's highly touted performance at LSU's pro day Wednesday, where the barely-21-year-old lived up to the hype with a 4.38-second 40-yard dash, a 41-inch vertical jump and an 11-foot broad jump. 


Oh my. 😳 @LSUfootball WR Ja'Marr Chase just ran a 4.38u 40-yard dash. (via @SlaterNFL) https://t.co/nV9D7Cep4N

Poor pro days are few and far between in the predraft process, but that was particularly important considering Chase didn't play in 2020 and could face questions that he was a one-hit wonder in college who benefited from being Burrow's top deep threat. 

On Wednesday, Chase made it easier for the Bengals to justify selecting a wide receiver early in back-to-back drafts despite the fact that they're already paying Tyler Boyd $10.8 million a year.

Sure, 2020 second-round pick Tee Higgins exploded for more than 900 yards and six touchdowns as a rookie. But the A.J. Green era is over, and there's an obvious spot for Chase opposite Higgins with Boyd operating almost entirely out of the slot. Higgins would be Burrow's big target, Chase would be his fastest target, and Boyd would be his efficient safety valve. 

Throw in the presence of Joe Mixon in the backfield and you're golden. 

Chase's pro day performance also made it easier for the Bengals to defend rolling with him instead of alternatives DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle from Alabama and Kyle Pitts from Florida. 

Pitts also put on a show at his pro day, but Waddle didn't take part in Alabama's pro day and Smith was only a limited, last-minute participant in the event, as both are coming off injuries. 

What separates Chase is his ceiling. He was consistently dominant in contested-catch situations as a teenager in 2019 and there isn't anything he can't do. He's got top-quality hands, runs excellent routes, has the speed to stretch the field, can take anything to the house and isn't a bad blocker. 

He's proved to be a game-changer despite lacking the height and weight that causes scouts to drool. But at 6'⅜", 201 pounds, he doesn't face major questions about his size as Smith does

Could you fault the Bengals for drafting Pitts instead? At this point, probably not. He's a tight end with wide receiver speed and finesse, and he dwarfs this class' top receivers physically. But he wasn't close to as productive at Florida as Chase was at LSU, and Pitts has made it sound as though the Falcons could remove him from the equation anyway. 

As for Chase and Burrow, they've both carefully expressed their admiration for one another in regard to a potential reunion. 

"That's a really good player," Burrow said in January, per ESPN's Alex Scarborough. "It's pretty easy to throw to him when he has five yards of separation every snap. He's an exciting player and a great guy and a friend as well. He was fun to play with."

Matthew Hinton/Associated Press

"I wouldn't mind going back with Joe," Chase said following his pro day, according to Scarborough. "If we go back together, we're trying to do nothing but get back our chemistry and have some more fun."

Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison were first-round picks two years apart. Johnny Unitas and Raymond Berry were drafted in back-to-back years by the Baltimore Colts, as were Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin with the Dallas Cowboys

Burrow, who before getting hurt was playing fantastic football with limited support as a rookie, and Chase, who possesses practically everything you want in a star receiver, absolutely have the ability—and the chemistry—to become that next special quarterback/wide receiver duo. 

And even if they team up but never reach Manning-Harrison or Aikman-Irvin levels of greatness, there's so much talent and potential there that they'd have to immediately be considered a threat to current dominant batteries like Patrick Mahomes and Tyreek Hill, Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams, Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs, Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, and Russell Wilson and DK Metcalf.


Brad Gagnon has covered the NFL for Bleacher Report since 2012. Follow him on Twitter, @Brad_Gagnon.