Sports Point/Counterpoint: Would you rather start your franchise with Ja’Marr Chase or Justin Jefferson? 

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Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase (1) is congratulated after scoring a touchdown during the fourth quarter of a Week 1 NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Paycor Stadium. Photo by Sam Greene-USA TODAY Sports.

The NFL season is already under way, and there’s been a brilliant display of talented wideouts throughout the NFL. Whether it was Ja’Marr Chase’s near-game winning touchdown against Pittsburgh or Justin Jefferson’s insane two-touchdown performance against Green Bay, it’s clear that these young receivers have the future of football in great hands. But what if you could only choose one to start your franchise? Would you choose Jefferson, the former LSU star who’s already established himself as a household name in the NFL? Or would you select Chase, another former LSU standout who’s coming off a Super Bowl appearance in just his first year in the league? Staff Writer Evan Rodriguez and Campus Correspondent Sam Calhoun will argue this question in today’s segment of point/counterpoint. 

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) signals a first down after running for a first down during the fourth quarter of a Week 1 NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Paycor Stadium. Photo by Sam Greene-USA TODAY Sports.

Evan: To start off, I don’t think there’s a wrong answer to this question. Both Chase and Jefferson are already two of the best receivers in the NFL, and they will be stars in the league for years to come. However, if I had to select one to begin my franchise, I’d choose Chase. Even though there’s not a large age difference, I’ll take an extra year of a prime Chase for my franchise. During his rookie season, Chase already demonstrated that he was built for this league, grabbing the most receiving yards of anyone in NFL history in his first seven games. When he has an elite quarterback, such as Joe Burrow, Chase is going to put in the work to get open on routes. And even if he has to really work for his catches, he’ll make it happen, such as his catch against Pittsburgh on Saturday that, if challenged, would have been a touchdown. Even Burrow joked that if no one is open on the Bengals roster, he knows he can simply throw it up to Chase and he’ll come down with it. As his career progresses, Chase will only get better. If I’m an NFL GM wanting to begin my own team, there’s no way I can overlook that blooming potential.  

Sam: I can certainly see your argument for JaMarr Chase. Like you said, there’s no wrong answer to this question as both Chase and Jefferson are extremely talented and will be at the top of the wide receiver position in the NFL for the years to come. Chase has an advantage with his college quarterback, Joe Burrow, passing the ball to him. They already have an established connection dating back to their LSU days, including winning the national championship in the 2019 season. Justin Jefferson came into the NFL a year before Chase and was not considered the best wide receiver in his draft class. Henry Ruggs III, Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb, and Jalen Reagor were all selected before Jefferson. Many thought Jefferson would be the WR2 on the Vikings, including myself. Adam Thielen was Kirk Cousins’s best target, but it was clear that Minnesota needed another weapon. During Jefferson’s rookie season, he put up incredible stats: 88 receptions, 1400 yards, and seven touchdowns. He continued to improve last season, finishing the 2021 season with 108 receptions, 1,616 yards, and ten touchdowns. He averaged over 15 yards per catch in his first two seasons, showing he can help get the Vikings’ offense down the field very quickly. On Sunday, he recorded nine receptions for 184 yards and two scores, including a 64-yard reception. While both Chase and Jefferson have competition for targets in their respective offenses, Jefferson never had a connection with Kirk Cousins and became an instant impact — and possibly a more important skill player than Dalvin Cook. 

Evan: While Burrow and Chase certainly have an important connection that has definitely contributed to the latter’s success thus far in the NFL, I don’t believe it’s far-fetched to say that Chase would still be an elite receiver with any great quarterback. For example, if Chase and Jefferson were to switch situations with Jefferson being in Cincinnati while Chase would be in Minnesota, the skills that Chase developed over his football career would certainly still be showcased in Minnesota. While Jefferson may have been doubted by many franchises before being drafted, he arguably had more competition for catches than Jefferson, going against Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd. Boyd, who had multiple 1,000 yard receiving seasons before Chase entered the league, was already a huge hurdle to get over. But, when you have another young receiver in Higgins, that’s incredibly steep competition. Despite this, Chase established that he was going to be the next great receiver, showcasing a combination of elite speed and impressive deep route running that, combined with the play of Joe Burrow, is a match made in heaven. Even without Burrow, if Chase was able to outcompete Boyd and Higgins for targets in a crowded receiving core, I’m convinced that if I had to start a franchise with Chase, who is going to give any receiver incredible competition when competing for targets on my team, I’ll be in good hands.  

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) scores a touchdown on a pass from quarterback Kirk Cousins (not pictured) against the Green Bay Packers during the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Photo by Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

Sam: Jefferson doesn’t have the speed of JaMarr Chase, but the way he beats his opponents is more impressive to me. He has more finesse than Chase, changing directions and juking out his opponent to get open. JaMarr Chase has Tyler Boyd, Tee Higgins, and even running back Joe Mixon as the other main Bengals weapons, making defenses even out the defense between those players while Jefferson is going to be double-teamed most games because there’s less competition at wide receiver. Jefferson is also taller, which gives him an advantage while catching in traffic. Jefferson may be a year older, but he is also more experienced, heading into his third season. 

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