A team that had just picked one of the the most widely beloved quarterback prospects in NFL history at No. 1 overall watched him get beat up during an encouraging rookie season that prematurely ended with a torn ACL, and decided the following year to select his receiver buddy from college instead of a believed-to-be generational offensive tackle.
Of course, it wasn't the first time a receiver went off the board before the first offensive tackle was taken in the NFL draft, but it has happened less than you think: only five times since 2000.
And that Bengals' decision felt different. With it, classic conventional wisdom got turned on its head. Those enamored with Sewell and keenly aware of the recently porous state of Cincinnati's offensive line were dumbfounded with even considering the idea of picking a receiver over a blocker.
The new school saw it as a rare and tremendous opportunity for the Bengals to reunite the most prolific single-season quarterback and receiver tandem in college football history while simultaneously strengthening the protection of Burrow without using a first-round pick on a blocker.
How would Chase help Cincinnati's blocking? The thought -- Burrow's connection with Chase would catalyze quicker releases for the rehabilitated quarterback, thereby limiting the frequency he'd get hit by pass rushers. And it has. Through seven games, Burrow's average time to throw is down by a few hundredths of a second, and he's been pressured less frequently than last season. Burrow's passer rating on Chase targets? 135.4.
Also, the Bengals decided Chase in Round 1 and an offensive lineman in Round 2 -- Jackson Carman -- would prove to be more valuable than Sewell in the first round and a receiver early on Day 2. Heck, a meme was created over the options during draft season.
And it looks like the Bengals' against-the-grain decision was absolutely spot-on.
Chase has 754 receiving yards through seven contests, the most for a rookie receiver in NFL history, and his 10-catch, 201-yard, one-touchdown masterpiece against the Ravens was integral in Cincinnati's domination in Baltimore, one of the loudest statement wins the Bengals have had in a very long time.
Of course, the collegiate bond Burrow and Chase forged at LSU was baked into the club determining receiver was the correct choice at No. 5 overall, and it's not often a team is afforded that potential luxury early in the draft.
But going receiver over offensive lineman, when both were clear needs, then getting immense early return on investment will notify the league that while blockers might be safer, your early-round receiver -- if he hits -- will absolutely move the needle more for your franchise.
I am not even considering that Sewell has had a bumpy start to his Lions career. Doesn't matter. Even if he began like Tristan Wirfs did a season ago or looked like the next Trent Williams, Sewell, single-handedly, would not have impacted Detroit's win-loss record as much as a budding superstar receiver.
And for as much of an advocate as I am for strong offensive line play aiding a young quarterback's development, a dynamic receiver just might be more profitable. It feels like the pendulum has swung distinctly in that direction. And, maybe, in the first round of the draft, especially early, swinging for home runs instead of singles is the smarter option.
Because right now, the Bengals look brilliant for picking Chase over Sewell.
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