Stat predictions for the Bengals’ dynamic trio of wide receivers
By Aaron Burd
With the start of training camp coming up soon for the Cincinnati Bengals, there are plenty of areas of concern for the team.
- How will Joe Burrow play in his return from injury?
- Will the offensive line be able to protect their quarterback?
- Can the defense improve under Lou Anarumo?
- Is Zac Taylor the right coach to lead the Bengals to the promised land?
However, one area where the Bengals can feel confident is at the wide receiver position.
After the addition of LSU wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase with the fifth overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Bengals have a potentially lethal trio of wide receivers that also includes Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins. While there are plenty of worrying questions surrounding the rest of the roster, the only question in regards to the wide receiver group is a hopeful one: just how good can they really be?
The answer is simple: they can be really good.
In the past, I have predicted that each of the Bengals’ top three receivers would go for 1,000+ receiving yards and I stand by that prediction, but just how will their stats compare to each other? In this article, I will attempt to predict their production for the 2021 season.
Tyler Boyd: 88 receptions, 1,017 yards, 5 touchdowns
Of the three top wide receivers on the Bengals’ projected depth chart, Tyler Boyd has been with the team the longest. Over his first five years in the NFL, Boyd developed into one of the best slot receivers in the league and became a leader on the Bengals’ offense. If not for an injury to Joe Burrow, the veteran receiver probably would have hit 1,000+ yards for the third straight year.
Boyd has led the Bengals’ in receptions in each of the past three years and the addition of Ja’Marr Chase should not change that. As a dangerous weapon from the slot, Boyd is a great bet to lead the team in receptions for the fourth straight year.
In his rookie year, Burrow often used Boyd as a safety net, and with two aces on the perimeter for defenses to focus on, the sixth-year receiver’s reliable hands will only become more valuable.
Tee Higgins: 75 receptions, 1,022 yards, 9 touchdowns
Drafted alongside Burrow in the 2020 NFL Draft, Tee Higgins was expected by many to be the Bengals’ number one wide receiver for years to come. However, with the addition of Chase, that looks much less likely. That’s not to say that Higgins will be relegated to the sideline though, it just means that he can thrive as perhaps the best number two receiver in the league.
Just like with Boyd, the young receiver from Clemson also probably would have surpassed 1,000 yards in 2020 if not for Burrow’s injury. Despite Chase being around to potentially take production from 2020’s dynamic duo, an additional game to play and the development of Burrow are both reasons to believe that Higgins will see improved production in 2021.
While I am projecting him to be third in receptions and second in yards, Higgins is a good bet to lead the Bengals in touchdowns. With six touchdowns in 2020, Higgins showed a knack for finding the end zone that is likely to improve in his second year. Standing at 6’4″, he can develop into a red-zone monster and that should be expected to happen in 2021.
Ja’Marr Chase: 77 receptions, 1,117 yards, 7 touchdowns
Finally comes Ja’Marr Chase, who many expect to be the Bengals’ top receiver from day one. While all three will excel in different categories and there won’t be a true “number one”, if there had to be one, I would put my money on Chase. It seems obvious, he has the talent of a top-five overall pick in the NFL Draft and already has chemistry with Joe Burrow, and 2,000+ yards and 20+ touchdowns of chemistry at that.
Considering he averaged 20+ yards per reception in 2019 with Burrow as his quarterback, it’s not hard to see him leading the Bengals in receiving yards without leading the team in receptions. While he may not be in line for the highest share of targets as a rookie, he can certainly be expected to gain the most yards.
Chase is going to be one of the best receivers in the NFL once he reaches his peak. As a rookie, he will probably have about as much production as his Boyd and Higgins. Once he comes into his own and gets some development, though, he is going to be alone at the top of the Bengals’ offense. This just isn’t the year that happens.
So there you have it.
Boyd, Higgins, and Chase will each lead the team in a major category, but overall their production will be relatively similar. Even so, these predictions show an incredibly successful season coming for the Bengals and their franchise quarterback.