John Ross is not your traditional Cincinnati Bengals first round pick. He is a flashy, big name prospect who relies on his speed to make waves and has been very successful in the process. Recently, the Bengals have preferred more well-rounded prospect in the first round. That said, it wasn’t a particularly surprising pick for the Bengals as both parties have been talking each other up in the week leading up to the draft.
Most draft analysts didn’t expect to see Ross and the Bengals as such a promising match throughout the majority of the draft process. In fact, it was generally assumed they would be looking at the defensive side of the ball in the first round. For the most part, most analysts weren’t ‘wowed’ by the pick, but almost all have heralded it as a solid one.
Immediately after the pick, Lance Zierlein of NFL.com gave the Bengals an A-:
I like this pick. It’s one that is a little unusual because he hasn’t been linked here. But, if you think about this, they’ve been telling everyone they want a guy to play on the opposite side of A.J. Green, who can take it down the field and stretch the field, as well, vertically, to take some pressure off him. Andy Dalton loves to throw it deep, he’s pretty good at doing that, and I think one of the things you get with John Ross, it’s two fold: Number 1, he catches the ball better than Will Fuller, but he’s got that Will Fuller-type take the top off the defense speed. But, the other thing I really like, is when he catches the ball, you have to give him so much cushion, that when he gets the easy look underneath, his catch-and-run ability is electric. I think he could be a big-play receiver, not just vertically, but also underneath with the catch-and-run stuff.
Later, Pete Prisco of CBS Sports set the general tone by giving the Bengals a B:
The Bengals lost their No. 2 and 3 wideouts last offseason when Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones Jr. signed elsewhere. Their offense suffered badly in 2016 as defenses were able to turn their sole focus to A.J. Green. Now, they add Ross to the mix opposite their star wideout. The breakout star of the NFL combine, Ross ran the 40-yard dash in 4.22 seconds -- a new record. He lit the Pac-12 on fire during his final season with the Huskies, catching 81 passes for 1,150 yards and an incredible 17 touchdowns. He comes with some injury concerns due to his slight frame, but he is a game-breaking player and much more than just a speedster. He's a complete wideout that can make plays at every level of the field.
Dieter Kurtenbach of Fox Sports followed suit with another B:
Ross is awesome and totally deserving of being the No. 9 pick. The Bengals needed a WR, but man, they had a lot of other things they could have addressed here or with a trade down.
Walter Football expressed the most criticism for the pick with a C+:
I had John Ross slotted to the Bengals in my 2017 NFL Mock Draft, but I did not think Jonathan Allen and Malik Hooker would be available. Wow, how do you pass on them? At any rate, Ross makes sense for the Bengals. Cincinnati wanted Will Fuller or Corey Coleman last year, and Ross is a better version of them. That said, there were better players available, so I have to give this something like a C+. I'm also concerned about Ross' durability.
Danny Kelly of The Ringer, on the other hand, delivered the most praise, with an A:
Ross broke the combine’s 40-yard dash record when he ran it in 4.22 seconds, and that doesn’t even accurately capture how fast he is on the field. Joining A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert in Cincinnati, he will be a home run threat down the field for Andy Dalton on every snap. And since the former Husky is going to see a steady dose of big cushions from cornerbacks, he should factor into the short and intermediate areas, too. With four kick-return touchdowns in college, he also has plenty of value in the return game.
Sports Illustrated was cautiously optimistic with a B+:
What was viewed as an elite draft for defensive talent sees six offensive players off the board in the first nine picks. Go figure. As was the case with Davis at No. 5, Ross’s health issues did not hold him back at all come Round 1. Heading into this draft, the Bengals needed to find help for A.J. Green, who was surrounded on the depth chart before Thursday by names like Brandon LaFell and Tyler Boyd. Ross is the explosive game-changer that was missing—the question is if he can stay on the field.
Scouting report: Ross scored 19 touchdowns last season—one rushing, one on a punt return and 17 receiving, a number which topped the Pac-12. He also racked up 1,150 receiving yards, the fourth-highest single-season total in Washington’s program history. Ross (5' 11", 188 pounds) is dynamic; he’s a big-play threat who can make an impact around the goal line as a route runner. He’s also blazing fast, running a record-breaking 4.22 40-yard dash at the combine. Injuries are a concern though—he missed the 2015 season with an ACL tear, an injury that came on the heels of a torn meniscus during the 2014 season and subsequent microfracture surgery.
Player comparison: T.Y. Hilton
Nicholas Goss of NESN rounded things out with a B+:
Ross is a tremendous athlete, evidenced by his record-breaking 40-yard dash time at the NFL Scouting Combine earlier this year. The Bengals needed to bolster their wide receiver depth after losing Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones in free agency before last season.
PFF hasn’t yet provided a grade, but, they do seem to like the pick:
The general consensus seems to be the Bengals brought in a very talented player who fits their offensive scheme and their plans for the future. Providing his injury history doesn’t come back to bite him, he could be a huge part of the Bengals’ offensive attack going forward. The main criticism? There were other players available who might have filled bigger needs. If you know anything about the Bengals’ draft strategy, it’s they pay great attention to the best player available when they pick. They clearly felt Ross was that guy, so they picked him up, for better or worse.