How Bengals' Ja'Marr Chase put together best rookie WR season in NFL history
Ja'Marr Chase doesn't just have a case for the best rookie season by a wide receiver in modern NFL history. He has slammed the door shut by the simple fact his immediate stellar play was key to making the Bengals a Super Bowl team.
Last season's Sporting News Rookie of the Year, the Vikings' Justin Jefferson, stacked up well against what Randy Moss did for Minnesota in 1998. Leave it to Chase, Jefferson's former teammate at LSU, to make sure Moss is no longer on top.
Chase followed up Jefferson to win Sporting News NFL Rookie of the Year in 2021, an award voted on by players around the league. Moss also was an easy winner in '98. In between Moss and Chase, Anquan Boldin, Percy Harvin and Odell Beckham Jr. were the other SN ROTY wide receivers before Jefferson.
"It's been an unbelievable experience," Chase said in accepting SN's award ahead of Super Bowl 56, adding to the LSU connection with Jefferson and Beckham. "I've been watching those guys execute game after game and communicating with them. Being a part of that just gave me confidence. Hanging with those guys has been great."
Jefferson, Beckham and the rest of those previous ROTY wide receivers didn't go to the Super Bowl as a rookie. Moss' Minnesota team fell just short, losing in the NFC championship game to Atlanta.
Based on his regular-season numbers, Chase's case already was strong. For a refresher, let's compare his stats to those of Jefferson and Moss as rookies:
Ja'Marr Chase's rookie season 81 catches on 128 targets
1,455 receiving yards
13 receiving TDs
18.0 yards per catch
63.3 percent catch rate
11.4 yards per target
21 rushing yards
Justin Jefferson's rookie season 88 catches on 125 targets
1,400 receiving yards
7 receiving TDs
15.9 yards per catch
70.4 percent catch rate
11.2 yards per target
2 rushing yards
Randy Moss' rookie season 69 catches on 124 targets
1,313 receiving yards
17 receiving TDs,
19.0 yards per catch,
55.6 percent catch rate
10.6 yards per target
4 rushing yards
Jefferson has catch rate and receptions in his favor, but he drops out of the conversation with single-digit TDs and fewest yards per catch.
Moss does have the massive scoring total and incredible yards for catch working for him, but Chase counters with total yardage.
Chase did play 17 games, but keep in mind the Bengals rested his elite quarterback, Joe Burrow, ahead of the playoffs in Week 18. Chase got only four targets — with two catches for 26 yards — in that game against the Browns, so most of his damage was done in 16 games.
It's only appropriate, then, that, like the amazing 2022 NFL postseason, this argument goes into overtime with a look at one more factor: playoff performance:
Ja'Marr Chase's rookie playoffs (three games) 20 catches on 27 targets
279 receiving yards, TD
14.0 yards per catch
93 yards per game
74.1 percent catch rate
10.3 yards per target
28 rushing yards
Randy Moss' rookie playoffs (two games) 10 catches on 20 targets
148 receiving yards
14.8 yards per catch
74 yards per game
7.4 yards per target
0 rushing yards
Chase has been terrific for the No. 4-seed Bengals. He posted 100-yard-plus games against the Raiders and Titans. He scored as part of the epic comeback against the Chiefs while Kansas City was doing everything it could to stop the man who lit them up for 11 catches, 266 yards and three TDs in Week 17.
Moss struggled with drops and his impact lessened big time in the Vikings' two playoff games as the NFC's No. 1 seed. Advantage, Chase. Game, set, no match. Chase has one final challenge against the Rams; he's likely to see a lot of Jalen Ransey, the best cover cornerback in the NFL. He is well aware that among top rookie wide receivers, the Rams' Torry Holt had a big Super Bowl 34 against the Titans. Holt caught seven of his 11 targets from Kurt Warner for 109 yards and a TD in St. Louis' 23-16 victory.