With the ninth pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, the Cincinnati Bengals selected former Washington wide receiver John Ross. Enticed by Ross’ blazing speed, the Bengals did not hesitate to add the receiver to their receiving core.
Setting the record for the fastest 40-yard dash time in NFL Combine history at 4.22 seconds, Ross brings speed and the opportunity to be a legitimate number two receiver to the Bengals offense. Two characteristics that they lacked last season.
No Bengals wide receiver averaged over 15 yards per reception last season, and after the late season injury to A.J. Green, the Bengals lack of wide receiver depth was exposed. With a huge need for a partner in crime opposite Green, the Bengals dug deep and believe they have walked out of Philadelphia, the site of this year’s NFL Draft, with gold.
As many of the Bengals’ brass would tell you, adding Ross means more than just adding an effective receiver to their offense, the addition offers the opportunity to better the offense as a whole.
“When you have a guy that can run past you and also separate from you across the field as well as down the field, it equals up everything. It’s just a different kind of weapon,” said Bengals wide receiver coach James Urban in Ross’ introductory press conference.
Ross gives the Bengals offense a logical solution to almost all their offensive concerns from last season. If the defense chooses to stack the box, one of Green or Ross will have single coverage for quarterback Andy Dalton to throw to. Or perhaps a defense chooses to double up on Green, leaving Ross or even tight end Tyler Eifert with an opportunity to make a play. Keeping an eye on both Ross and Green present no easily found solution either, as this allows the Bengals to run the football against an honest front.
The only concern with Ross is his deeply profiled medical history. Already recovering from labrum surgery that will sideline him until July at the earliest, Ross also has torn his ACL and meniscus in the past. Though speculation existed about Ross’ draft stock sliding due to his injury history, the Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis was not ready to let a talent of Ross’ nature slide by, showing full confidence in his team’s medical assessment.
“If you can jump through the hoops and pass our medical, then you’re pretty good. It’s not my concern once they pass him. (If he’s able to stay on (our) board, then he’s pretty good,” said Lewis during his post day one press conference.
Labeling Ross’ selection as a risky or un-characteristic pick would be unfair criticism to a franchise defined by their characteristics of falling short in the postseason. For the first time in franchise history, the Bengals will feature two top-10 picks at wide receiver – an uncharacteristic move to many, but a different step in the right direction for the Bengals.