No one is still questioning whether or not the Bengals made the right decision selecting Ja’Marr Chase with the fifth overall pick in last year’s draft. The former LSU Tiger is the runaway choice for Offensive Rookie of the Year, with 79 receptions for 1,429 yards and 13 touchdowns with a league-high average of 18.1 yards-per-catch. Chase has played an integral role in the Bengals’ first AFC North division crown since 2015.
Chase has more than justified the Bengals’ decision to draft him, but CBS Sports NFL analyst and four-time Pro Bowl linebacker London Fletcher is not anointing him as the greatest rookie receiver in league history, a claim Hall of Fame receiver Cris Carter recently made on “Good Morning Football.” Ironically, Carter was teammates with the receiver Fletcher feels has had the best rookie season.
“What Ja’Marr Chase has done has been phenomenal, but Randy Moss really changed the game,” Fletcher said. “Defenses in Cover 2 and double covering him, it wasn’t enough. The whole, ‘You got Mossed,’ there’s a reason why that’s a segment.”
Unlike Chase, Moss watched as another receiver — Kevin Dyson — was chosen ahead of him in the draft. Not drafted until the Vikings snatched him with the 21st pick, Moss quickly made the teams that passed on him regret their decision. Moss caught two touchdowns in his first regular season game and had five touchdowns in his first five games. By the time he scored three touchdowns against the Cowboys on Thanksgiving, Moss had already become a household name. Moss capped off his sterling season with his 17th touchdown reception, a still-standing record for a rookie receiver.
“Randy Moss could take a five-yard hitch and turn it into a 95-yard touchdown,” Fletcher said. “I know Ja’Marr had the big catch-and-run last week, but Randy Moss did that on a regular basis. Randy Moss had the best rookie receiving season that I can remember. It’s a phenomenal year Ja’Marr Chase is having. I know the numbers say Ja’Marr Chase had a better year, but Randy Moss was such a difference-maker and someone who really changed the way defenses defended the Vikings, in particular.”
As Fletcher said, Chase has put together a remarkable rookie campaign that will likely include winning Offensive Rookie of the Year. And while Moss’ 1998 regular season may still be the standard for rookie receivers, Chase has a chance to add to his 2021 campaign during the postseason. For the Bengals to have success in the playoffs, however, Fletcher feels that Cincinnati coach Zac Taylor can’t forget about another Pro Bowler who shares a huddle with Chase.
“Joe Mixon is the key to that offense,” Fletcher said. “I feel like he makes that offense go. There was a stretch where he was rushing for less than 60 yards a game, and those were the games where they struggled in. They need to get more out of him in the run game, because when he’s going, it opens so much of the play-action pass that allows the big play to happen, whether it’s with Ja’Marr Chase or Tee Higgins down the field. … And Joe Burrow will rip you apart when he’s able to play-action pass.”