Cincinnati Bengals gamble with Ross, Mixon

Nov 5, 2016; Berkeley, CA, USA; Washington Huskies wide receiver John Ross (1) scores a touchdown against the California Golden Bears during the first quarter at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 5, 2016; Berkeley, CA, USA; Washington Huskies wide receiver John Ross (1) scores a touchdown against the California Golden Bears during the first quarter at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports /

One word to describe the Bengals draft would be “bold.” Instead of stocking up on safe picks, the Bengals went out and drafted players that could lift their offense to the next level in John Ross and Joe Mixon. However, both of their first two picks look like huge gambles.

Sports fans are familiar with the expression “go big, or go home.” That’s exactly what the Cincinnati Bengals did with their first two picks in the draft. The Bengals went boom or bust on two players with major questions: John Ross and Joe Mixon.

John Ross

Bengals fans were surprised when John Ross was called as the Bengals first round pick. While wide receiver is one of the Bengals’ needs, taking Ross at ninth overall seemed to be a reach. Ross had an interesting four years at in college. He was versatile for the Washington Huskies, as he switched between receiver and defensive back, his first two years in school. In 2015, Ross missed the entire season due to a torn ACL, and also had surgery to repair two meniscus tears. In 2016, Ross settled into his permanent position of wide receiver.

What Are The Benefits?

There was one major reason that the Bengals took Ross so high: speed. Ross ran a faster 40 time than any player in NFL history at 4.22. This incredible speed allows Ross to blow by cornerbacks on fly routes and immediately gives the Bengals a playmaker downfield. Using Ross as a deep threat should open things up for other Bengals receivers. Think about how productive A.J. Green could be with single coverage all year. Current players that Ross resembles are DeSean Jackson and Brandon Cooks.

What Are The Risks?

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There’s no question that Ross has natural athletic ability. However, he only played one full year at wide receiver in college. Due to his lack of experience, Ross still has a lot of areas in which he needs to improve. While he can run past defenders, he struggles with physical corners that can bump him off of his route. He also has little experience going up for contested balls and needs to improve his catching ability in general.

In addition, there are durability questions with Ross. While one season of injuries doesn’t exactly categorize as chronic, meniscus tears and a torn ACL are still worrisome. With all of these potential concerns, it is indeed surprising the Bengals took Ross so high in the draft. Hopefully, he will be able to maximize his ability and become an immediate impact player.

Joe Mixon

With their second round pick, the Bengals selected controversial Oklahoma Sooners running back Joe Mixon. Everybody that follows college or pro football knows the story with Mixon. In 2014 he was caught on camera punching a woman, severely injuring her face. Because of this incident, Mixon was suspended for the 2014 season but played in 2015 and 2016. The consensus among NFL scouts is that Mixon is a talented runner. However, his off the field issues scared away many teams.

What Are The Benefits?

Mixon is a powerful runner who many people considered to be a first round talent. He is adept at running with the ball, receiving, and even returning kicks. Mixon could be the lead back the Bengals need to take their offense to the next level. Looking strictly at his level of abilities, Mixon could be the steal of the draft.

What Are The Risks?

Unlike the concerns with Ross–which were mostly about play–Mixon’s issues are a hundred percent off-the-field. First of all, Mixon’s 2014 incident has taken the shape of a dark cloud that constantly hangs over him. Anytime his name is mentioned, people associate it with that brutal video. The fact that the Bengals drafted Mixon has already divided and alienated fans to the degree that talks of protesting games have been making their way around the internet. If Mixon has so much as one false step, it could be a public relations nightmare. The added scrutiny is something that the Bengals didn’t need. Hopefully, Mixon can stay out of trouble and produce on the field.

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What It Means

The Bengals had an interesting strategy in the 2017 draft. They seemingly threw caution to the wind and took players that could make an immediate impact. If even one of the two players works out it could add a huge boost to their offense. If nothing else, Bengals fans should be excited to see what both of these players can do on the field this season, in spite of the questions surrounding them.