John Ross is an incredible talent, but he has had a turbulent start to his NFL career.
After flashes in 2018 and 2019, the pressure is on Ross to show that he can be a consistent playmaker throughout the season.
Fortunately, he is in a prime position to benefit from various offensive personnel and scheme changes over the past several months.
Hometown: Long Beach, CA
Experience: 4th Season
Ross was the Bengals’ first-round selection in 2017. Bengals declined to pick up his fifth-year option, so he now enters the fourth and final year of his rookie deal.
Ross’ salary in 2020 will be just under $2.8 million.
Another touchdown for John Ross!@andydalton14 ➡️ @WatchJRoss. 55-yard @Bengals TD! #SeizeTheDEY #CINvsSEA— NFL (@NFL) September 8, 2019
: NFL app // Yahoo Sports app
Watch on mobile: https://t.co/PoZiStO3mL pic.twitter.com/0Rlr91Bz9N
Ross was the talk of the 2017 NFL Combine when he broke the combine record by running a 4.22 40-yard-dash. A couple of months later, the Bengals made him the ninth overall selection.
His rookie season was a wash. Injuries played a part, but his struggles were largely because the coaching staff did not prioritize getting him ready to play when he was healthy.
In 2018, Ross started to get a look on offense, but the team’s usage of him was odd. They didn’t regularly get him the ball in space or take deep shots to him. In short, they didn’t do anything to utilize his speed.
Ross will had seven touchdowns on only 21 receptions and a mere 210 yards. He played in 13 games, missing the other three with a groin injury.
The Bengals offense was “The John Ross Show” in the first two weeks of 2019. In those two games, he had a combined 11 receptions for 270 yards and three touchdowns.
But injuries once against prevented Ross from reaching his potential, as he missed the middle of the season with a sternoclavicular injury and finished the year with 28 receptions for 506 yards and three scores in eight games.
John Ross with an impressive touchdown pic.twitter.com/RGo94kbCke— Ian Wharton (@NFLFilmStudy) November 18, 2018
Outlook for 2020
Ross’ speed is obviously a huge asset. Even if Ross is not having a direct impact on the stat-sheet, his presence on the field has to be accounted for by the defense.
Last season, he made some big plays, the kind that stretch the field and keep defensive coordinators up at night.
Because he is so fast, people think that he is only a deep threat, but that is not true.
In fact, in 2018, Ross proved himself as an excellent red-zone target. Usually, we think of a red-zone target as a bigger receiver like Auden Tate, but Ross at 5-11 can get open in compressed spaces and win in contested catch situations.
The Bengals are really just scratching the surface on what he can do. He should be used more on screens and shorter passes that allow him space to run after the catch.
New quarterback Joe Burrow can help with that. A big part of LSU’s offensive success was Burrow’s ball placement, which allowed receivers to gain additional yards after the catch. He also benefited from a speedy receiver named Ja’Marr Chase. Could Ross be Burrow’s Chase in Cincinnati?
Ross is an extraordinary talent who can have a major impact in the NFL, but how will he fit into the Bengals' now deep group of wide receivers?
Expect Ross to join A.J. Green and Tyler Boyd as the starting wide receivers. He must stay healthy to ward off rookie Tee Higgins, who will be waiting in the wings for the opportunity to step into a starting role.
In the first 4 games of the season, before he got hurt, John Ross averaged 8 targets per game and was able to put together 328 yards and 3 touchdowns. Certainly a breakout candidate in 2020. pic.twitter.com/OJbRSEnfOg— Jon Camacho (@betweenpylons) July 15, 2020
With Green signing his franchise tag and the Bengals drafting Higgins, the Bengals have suddenly gotten very deep at the wide receiver position.
But after investing so much in Ross, there’s no doubt he will be sticking around this season.
Whether he is in Cincinnati beyond this season depends on three things: Ross’ health, Green’s health, and Higgins.
Higgins has already done his part. He got drafted. After investing such a high pick at receiver, the unlikely scenario of the Bengals signing both Ross and Green to long-term deals has become all but impossible to imagine.
Both Green and Ross have had trouble staying on the field. If Green can stay healthy and be the old A.J. we all know and love, he will be rewarded with a long-term contract. If he struggles and Ross is healthy and productive, then Ross could get the deal.
If the Bengals let Ross walk, he will have many suitors. He still has a bright future in the NFL if he cant just stay on the field.
Roster Odds: 99%