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John Ross visiting Bengals; called best playmaker in draft by ESPN

ESPN called John Ross the best playmaker in this year’s NFL Draft, and he’s visiting Cincinnati this weekend.

Arizona State v Washington Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

The Bengals are keeping their options open with the No. 9 pick in this month’s NFL Draft.

Ideally, we’ll see defensive end, linebacker or running back addressed with that pick, being that those are the positions that offer the most value in the top 10 while filling needs. However, wide receiver is another area that offers good value in the top 10, and Washington’s John Ross may be the best pass catcher in this year’s draft.

According to Ian Rapoport, Cincinnati is hosting Ross this weekend in Cincinnati.

Ross has become a somewhat popular mock draft target for the Bengals ever since his blazing 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine. Ross clocked in at 4.22 seconds in the 40-yard dash, breaking running back Chris Johnson's previous record of 4.24.

While having that kind of speed is ideal for an NFL receiver, it means little if they can’t harness it properly on the field. That’s not an issue with Ross, who caught 81 passes for 1,150 yards and 17 touchdowns last season as one of the most explosive players in college football.

That led to ESPN’s Todd McShay calling Ross the best playmaker in this draft class:

1. John Ross, WR, Washington

We know about Ross' 4.22 40-yard dash, which broke the modern combine record, putting him in an entirely different category on this list. But what stands out with Ross is that some guys are straight-line fast, others are quick and twitchy, and Ross is both. When you have someone who can make guys miss laterally and then leave them in the dust, that's special. I watched tape of this draft's speediest WRs around the same time -- such as Carlos Henderson, Isaiah McKenzie, Josh Malone and Ross -- and you'd be amazed at the difference between Ross' speed and those other burners. He's just at a different level. Ross scored four career kickoff return touchdowns and had 17 receiving scores last year, including the play below where he roasted USC's Adoree' Jackson with a ridiculous move at the line. Ross also brings value on reverses and jet sweeps; he averaged 9.8 yards per carry on 20 career rushes.

The negative with Ross is that he underwent shoulder surgery on March 14, which could keep him sidelined into training camp with whichever team drafts him. He also missed the 2015 season at Washington after suffering a torn ACL during a spring practice earlier that year, so he’s already pretty banged up coming into the NFL.

Even if the Bengals don’t plan on taking him at No. 9, they’re still wise to get a meeting in with Ross so they can better vet him and see how healthy he is coming into the NFL. There’s always a chance with banged-up guys like Ross that they fall into the early parts of Round 2. We saw it last year with Jaylen Smith and Myles Jack, so perhaps there’s a small chance Ross is there for the taking when Cincinnati is on the clock at No. 41 in Round 2.

However, I think it’s more likely that Ross is in play for the Bengals if they trade down in Round 1 and end up with a pick in the teens or early 20s. He probably would be the best player available at those spots, so the Bengals are wise to make sure they know everything possible about Ross heading into the draft.