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NFL Draft: Bengals coach Zac Taylor says Joe Burrow, Ja'Marr Chase bond not a 'big' factor

Former LSU wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase (pictured) was college teammates with Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow in 2018 and 2019. File Photo by Pat Benic/UPI
Former LSU wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase (pictured) was college teammates with Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow in 2018 and 2019. File Photo by Pat Benic/UPI | License Photo

April 27 (UPI) -- Cincinnati Bengals coach Zac Taylor said the relationship between quarterback Joe Burrow and former LSU teammate Ja'Marr Chase is not a big factor in the team's decision for whom to pick in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft.

Taylor made the comment when he met with reporters Monday in a Zoom video conference. Burrow, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, was teammates with Chase at LSU in 2018 and 2019.

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"No, it's one of the things that you weigh in," Taylor said, when asked if the Burrow-Chase relationship was a big factor in Chase's evaluation. "We take in a lot of factors: production on field, character, football IQ, what they bring to locker room and to the team as a whole.

"Their relationship with the quarterback certainly doesn't hurt, but it's just one of the many things you weigh in."

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The Bengals have the No. 5 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. They are widely expected to select former Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell, former Florida tight end Kyle Pitts or Chase with the pick.

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Chase opted out of the 2020 season. He had 84 catches for 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns in 14 games when he caught passes from Burrow in 2019. Burrow threw for 5,671 yards and tossed a record 60 touchdown passes en route to the Heisman Trophy and national title that season for the Tigers.

Chase told reporters in March that he "wouldn't mind" an NFL reunion with Burrow. Burrow said April 20 on the Cris Collinsworth Podcast that he hasn't "offered up any strong opinion" to the Bengals on who the team should pick in the draft.

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"I'm great friends with Ja'Marr," Burrow said. "We've been talking for a year since we stopped playing together. We talked last week so I'm great friends with Ja'Marr [and] know the kind of player he is.

"I think we're in a great spot. I think a lot of the picks in front of us will be quarterbacks, not sure how many them, but I think a lot of them will be. I think we're in a good spot to take the best available."

Clemson's Trevor Lawrence, Ohio State's Justin Fields, BYU's Zach Wilson, Alabama's Mac Jones, Chase, Pitts and Sewell are among the players most linked to the Top 5 of the 2021 NFL Draft.

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Taylor said the Bengals want to pick a "premier" player who can contribute and help the team win immediately. Chase said he has spoken with the AFC North franchise several times as part of the Bengals' draft evaluation process.

"LSU in particular has had a lot of players come out [to the NFL] the last two years," Taylor told reporters. "You get a chance to see an offense similar to a lot of pro systems. There is not a lot of guess work to how they are going to translate.

"There are a lot of teams like that in college football. LSU is just one of them."

Burrow sustained a season-ending knee injury when he took a hit from several Washington Football Team defenders Nov. 22 in Landover, Md. The Bengals have one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL, which could lead to the selection of Sewell or another highly rated offensive line prospect. The former Oregon tackle is regarded as one of the best offensive line prospects in 2021 draft class.

The first round of the 2021 NFL Draft starts at 8 p.m. EDT Thursday in Cleveland. The draft airs on ABC, ESPN and NFL Network.

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