The Bengals spent their first round pick on Wide Receiver John Ross. While there was a lot of fanfare surrounding this pick, how much do you really know about his football career thus far?
The Bengals made a splash in the NFL draft this year by selecting John Ross, the wide receiver out of Washington. Ross had an interesting road to the NFL. He battled through injuries and played many different positions before finding his footing. While wide receiver was certainly a need for the Bengals, what was it about Ross that warranted such a high selection?
John grew up in Long Beach, California where he played wide receiver and cornerback for his high school football team. In addition to playing football, he also ran track. Due to his high school accomplishments, Ross was rated as the 49th best high school prospect in the state of California. He decided to attend the University of Washington and continue his football career.
As a player for the Washington Huskies, Ross bounced around between several different positions. His first two collegiate seasons, Ross got reps at wide receiver but also had some success as a defensive back and kick returner. As a defensive back in 2014, Ross had 12 tackles as well as an interception. As a kick returner, he has 938 yards and two touchdowns. In 2015, he suffered a torn ACL and missed the entire season only to return to form in 2016 in which he amassed 1,150 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns. Ross also had one rushing touchdown and one kick return touchdown.
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Ross elected to forgo his senior season of eligibility and instead make the jump into the NFL. At the NFL combine, Ross ran the fastest ever 40-yard dash at 4.22. While Ross was already regarded as one of the top receiving prospects in the draft, this cemented his value. With receivers going off the board early in the first round, the Bengals snagged Ross with the ninth overall pick.
What Does He Add To The Team?
Ross adds something to the Bengals offense that they were sorely missing: Speed. While A.J. Green is more than capable of going deep, Ross is better equipped to stretch the field. With the offense sputtering last year it became obvious that the front office didn’t leave enough talent in the receiving corps. One huge reason for this was the letting go of Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones. Green was often facing double coverage and none of the other pass catchers were big enough threats to drag defenders off of him. John appears to be their remedy for that conundrum. The hope is that he can use his pure speed to open up the field by forcing corners and safeties to play off. This, in theory, could open up running lanes by clearing out the box and provide one on one opportunities for Green, Tyler Eifert, and Tyler Boyd.
While he has a ton of upside potential there are also some questions. The first being his durability. He obviously rebounded nicely from his ACL tear in 2015 with a banner year. However, it’s worth mentioning that he also had to have surgery just after Washington’s pro day to repair a torn labrum. In addition, he strained his calf muscle after his 40-yard dash at the NFL combine. These issues aren’t frequent enough to be labeled “chronic,” but it is something to watch out for in the more physical NFL.
John Ross is a player with major upside potential. With his blazing speed, he has been likened to DeSean Jackson. The Bengals coaches can work with him to polish up his game and get him ready to make an impact Week 1. If he can stay healthy, fans may be buying his jerseys by the mid-season point.