John Ross hasn’t done much in two NFL seasons, and the Cincinnati Bengals are ready to give up on the former top-10 pick.
Two years ago, John Ross set an NFL Combine record by running a 4.22 40-yard dash. The Cincinnati Bengals were sufficiently impressed, with some notable talent still on the board, that they took the 2016 Pac-12 Player of the Year ninth overall in the 2017 draft.
Ross did not catch a pass as a rookie, though he did get one carry, as knee and shoulder injuries limited him to just three games. He was mostly healthy last year, and dented the stat sheet with 21 receptions (on 58 targets) for 210 yards and seven touchdowns in 13 games.
Instead of hoping for a full third year breakout, as often happens with wide receivers, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network has reported the Bengals are shopping Ross with a fresh start in mind for both sides.
Cincinnati have been trying to find a viable No. 2 wide receiver to go with A.J. Green. Tyler Boyd showed some potential during his rookie season in 2016 (54 catches for 603 yards), before dropping off in 2017. But he rebounded nicely last year, in his third season no less, with 76 receptions for 1,028 yards and seven touchdowns.
Based of Jeff Driskel starting five games after Andy Dalton went down to injury last year, it would be reasonable to expect better from the entire Cincinnati passing game with Dalton back healthy in 2019. As a No. 3 receiver, Ross would seem to be a nice weapon in the Rams-influenced offense new head coach Zac Taylor is bringing in.
Ross had just seven catches in Driskel’s five starts last year, but two of them went for touchdowns and he also had a touchdown catch in four of his last five games with Dalton. Despite not having the kind of size (5-foot-11, 190 pounds) that would predict red zone production, five of Ross’ touchdowns came on seven targets inside the 10-yard line.
Ross is due $4.8 million in guaranteed salary over the next two seasons, so wanting to trade him can’t really be a cost thing for the Bengals. A 36.2 percent catch rate and six drops last year isn’t particularly promising though, even allowing for Driskel’s shortcomings as a passer over a big chunk of the games Ross played in 2018.
But with speed and physical tools, along with a surprising level of red zone prowess shown in his first substantial NFL action, multiple teams will be ready to buy low on a former first-round pick.