Being drafted in the top 10 of any given NFL Draft means a player has been vetted as possessing more positive traits and less negative traits than all but eight other players in the draft class. However, top 10 prospects aren’t perfect player.s
No player is perfect, especially not a drafted NFL rookie who has never played a game at the professional level. John Ross, the Bengals’ No. 9 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, already has an idea of where he stands currently and what his goals are for improvement during his NFL career.
“Just not being one-dimensional. A guy who can move around,” Ross said at the NFL Combine back in March of the type of player he hopes to become. “Play different [wide receiver] positions. Play everything being explosive, really. I don't want to be known as just a guy who can go deep. I want to be able to do a lot of things in my game.”
When Ross made those comments, he did not know he would end up as the No. 9 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. It was actually later on during the Combine when Ross really made a name for himself by blasting off to a 4.22 40-yard dash time. And, days later, Ross started to become a popular mock draft target for Cincinnati. At the time, however, Ross said he was focused on improving about his game, rather than staying complacent with what has worked so far.
“I have to be able to know how to read deep coverages. I have to be smart and basically work on my craft every single day to get better, continue to get better,” Ross said. “Those guys (in the NFL) they know what is going on. They are smarter in the league and everything.”
So, on top of being one of the top speed threats in the 2017 NFL Draft class, Ross is making the effort to be as well-rounded as possible. If that doesn’t confirm his worth as a first round draft pick, I don’t know what does. Still, there are some particular weak spots in his game that he will have to work on, if he wants to live up to his lofty draft status.
“My weakness is probably physicality,” Ross said. “Just knowing when to be physical, how to be physical because there will be a lot of guys who are going to see me as a smaller guy so they are going to want to press me.”
In the ultra-physical AFC North, physicality is going to be key to a young rookie’s survival. Ross is either going to learn to be physical, or he will not survive. Luckily, he is laser focused on being the best player he can be; in all areas of his game.
“That was one of my big emphases coming in. I didn't just want to be just a speed guy,” Ross said. “I wanted to use my speed to help me get better in different ways. So that is what I did. Focus less as a speed guy and run just intermediate routes and just playing better than what people thought I would.”
The ‘always improving’ mentality for Ross is one that has stuck with him throughout his career. As a four-star recruit out of David Starr Jordan High School in Long Beach, California, Ross was known as a very gifted kid, albeit one who might need to develop as a great special teamer to realize his full potential in college. He did become that great special teams player with the Huskies, but he wanted more and achieved more in turn.
“Just not wanting to have that label on myself. Not wanting to be that guy who can just return kicks,” Ross said as he explained his motivation for becoming a great receiver. “I didn't want to be known for that. I want to be known for more than just being a deep threat. I want to be more than a guy who can just return kicks. I want to be a more complete receiver for a team.”
Now, Ross will have the chance to do that with the Cincinnati Bengals.