The Bengals have drafted John Ross, the wide receiver from Washington, with the ninth pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. There are many fans questioning why the Bengals didn’t draft a defensive guy with many top 10 defenders on the board at the time of the selection. Those fans just need to wait until the first huge play Ross makes, and then they will understand. Here are five reasons why this pick instantly makes the Bengals better.
1. Competent second receiver
The Bengals struggled last season in the passing game. It was clear Brandon LaFell and Tyler Boyd weren’t helping out Andy Dalton enough. Boyd was rookie, so there is reason to believe he can develop better chemistry with Dalton. However, LaFell, who Cincinnati re-signed this offseason, failed to beat the single coverage he saw often enough. The Bengals needed a receiver who could actually scare a defense on the perimeter outside of A.J. Green, and they got that with Ross. Ross will be able to use his well documented 4.22 40-yard dash speed to take advantage of any team who doesn’t leave a safety to help over the top. That brings me into my next reason...
2. Less safeties in the box
Ross’s speed affects how opposing defenses play against the Bengals. Last season the Bengals were faced with eight men in the defensive box . That impacts so much the offense tries to do. It makes it harder to run the ball, receivers running intermediate routes have a harder time getting open and it is easier for the defense to send blitzes. There is an easy fix for when teams try to do this, and it’s to beat them deep. However, defenses were able to focus so much on Green in 2016 and dare the rest of the supporting cast to beat single coverage. This was especially difficult when Tyler Eifert was hurt and off-the-field (eight games). Ross makes it way harder for teams not to respect him by being able to go deep at any point. This could lead to more running lanes, easy openings for Boyd running short routes and the offensive line dealing with less exotic blitzes.
3. More big plays
Last year Cincinnati struggled making big plays. They were often forced to move methodically down the field. That is a hard approach to take in the NFL if that is what you have to do most of the time. The Bengals had 51 plays of more than 20 yards, which is about middle of the road in the NFL. The Bengals drop off when you look at plays of more than 40 yards though. They only had five plays that went for more than 40 yards, which was only better than three teams. Ross can help that on his own and by taking attention away from other offensive players like Eifert and Green who are also capable of making those huge plays.
4. Offensive security
We were all reminded last season that the Bengals are not invincible, and offensive playmakers can and will get injured. Cincinnati played games without Green, Eifert, Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard in 2016. Needless to say, Ross provides another guy who can keep the offense moving when injuries happen. You can never have too many playmakers and Ross is one of this year’s best playmakers.
5. Long term solution at receiver
It is no secret LaFell wasn’t the long term answer at receiver. He was given a two-year deal this offseason, though, the team could part ways with him after this season with little repercussion. It also saves the Bengals from having to hope guys like Cody Core and Alex Erickson, who both saw quite a few snaps at the end of the season, develop into that second receiver on the perimeter. Many say Boyd is supposed to be that option, but he is a slot receiver, which is fine, but the Bengals needed someone opposite Green who can really make plays against one-on-one coverage. Ross will be here for at least four years (fifth year option), and by the time his contract is up, Green will be on the other side of 30. Ross could eventually take over that top receiver role if he develops like he is expected to during his contract.