The NFL Draft is a time for everyone to voice their opinion on draft prospects’ futures. Some players look like they will translate to the NFL easier than others, but that doesn’t always happen.
To celebrate a whole new crop of takes that are bound to get cold over time this weekend, I’ll be looking back at some of my coldest takes including going back to one player who taught me a very valuable lesson about the draft.
It is usually important to try and approach the draft with some optimism. That has usually led me away from some of the takes that took a few seasons to get cold like Tyler Boyd needing a few seasons to show he is one of the best slot receivers in the NFL.
However, I haven’t always held that optimism for teams outside of Cincinnati. It has also led to some serious letdowns. None of those letdowns compare to my first — and probably coldest — take.
My worst recent Bengals’ draft take
The name John Ross carries some serious weight among fans in Cincinnati. He represents so much of what those final years of the Marvin Lewis era represented. A hope that things were changing and modernizing to only fall flat.
I was unapologetically one of Ross’ biggest supporters after being drafted No. 9 overall in the 2017 draft. He had just broken the 40-yard dash record at the NFL Combine and on top of that he had shown that homerun speed on the field during his time at Washington. Things even initially started out great. He had one of the best plays we as Bengals fans had seen since Giovanni Bernard reversed field against the Miami Dolphins on Thursday Night Football.
John Ross just embarrassed the Bills. pic.twitter.com/Z9d8BUTIsT— Houston Kress (@VolRumorMill) August 26, 2018
Unfortunately, this was one of the biggest peaks he had as a Bengal. The rest of his time during the Lewis era was filled with injuries and disappointing outings filled with drops or being nonexistent.
When Zac Taylor took over my faith was reignited in Ross. It seemed like Lewis didn’t believe in the young receiver or have an offense that could utilize him. I thought Ross could easily replicate the Brandin Cooks role that Taylor had seen first hand with the Los Angeles Rams. And Week 1 was probably the apex of Ross’ career.
Wow, just before the half John Ross scores on a 55-yard touchdown catch.— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) September 8, 2019
Ross is alive under Zac Taylor. Has 108 yards. His career high previously was 52.#Seahawks should go to halftime with the lead, 17-14.pic.twitter.com/qxbgCbIxTA
Even in that game, drops were an issue. It seemed like the former first-round selection just couldn’t get out of his own way. Many speculated it was a confidence issue and that being drafted with the expectations that come along with being a top 10 pick were simply too much for Ross.
Either way, my expectations that he could possibly be a guy who could open up an offense that had grown stagnate never materialized. Ross spent last year with the New York Giants and is currently a free agent. This draft miss is all the worse with quarterback Patrick Mahomes being taken directly after Ross. Something that will be pointed at for years to come.
My worst recent overall draft take
When the Arizona Cardinals hired Kliff Kingsbury, a narrative that the team could use their first overall selection on quarterback Kyler Murray. The former Texas Tech coach had tried to recruit Murray since he was a Sophomore in high school.
In my eyes, this notion seemed ridiculous. Even with a team hiring a new head coach, the team had just drafted Josh Rosen the year prior after trading up to select him. The idea a team would spend that much draft capital on a quarterback to only hire a coach that didn’t believe in him and move on from him after only a single season seemed silly.
While Murray and the Cardinals appear to be having some drama this offseason, there is no doubt this move worked out. Murray has been responsible for 4,000 total yards each of his three seasons. 2020 was by far his best year with 26 passing touchdowns and another 11 rushing. His added ability as a runner has easily made him one of the most dynamic young quarterbacks in the NFL despite the team’s disappointing performances over his tenure. He lost his first career playoff game last season to the eventual Super Bowl champion Rams.
Rosen, meanwhile, was traded to the Miami Dolphins. Since his rookie season, Rosen has thrown for under 600 yards with one touchdown compared to seven interceptions. He spent some time on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers practice squad learning from Tom Brady. However, his most recent appearance with the Atlanta Falcons had him completing as many of his 11 pass attempts to his teammates (two) as the defense (two interceptions).
Even if things sour with Murray and the Cardinals over the next few years, there is no doubt that they made the right call switching over to Murray.
Most memorable cold take on a Bengals draft pick
For clarities sake, I have been following the Bengals closely since the 2005 season. I don’t recall being so upset over a pick that turned out to be good as when Cincinnati took Michigan cornerback Leon Hall in the first round of the 2007 NFL Draft. That was also the first draft I was obsessed with creating mock drafts for. I would join Myspace groups dedicated to filling a role as a certain team and mocking what teams would do.
I remember thinking the Bengals would likely add a cornerback of some kind to put across from Jonathan Joseph. The dream was that Darrelle Revis would fall somehow to pick No. 18. However, there was no luck there. Then my attention turned to pass rusher Jarvis Moss, who went off the board directly before Cincinnati. I remember thinking they would probably select either Texas defensive back Michael Griffin or Aaron Ross.
Then they selected Hall. Someone I viewed as one of the biggest busts in this draft. You know why I thought that? Because when Michigan played Ohio State, Ted Ginn Jr. absolutely roasted him. He had eight catches for 104 yards and a touchdown.
Not all of that was on Hall, but the touchdown stood out along with a missed tackle. In my young eyes, he was just going to get toasted in the NFL on a regular basis.
You really shouldn’t put so much merit into one performance though. Hall went on to be probably the best corner for the Bengals during his tenure. He and Joseph made up one of the best duos in the NFL while they played together. Hall also went on to become one of the best nickel corners as well.
We can also look back now and recognize how great he was with some actual numbers to represent it.
PFF’s new +/- valuation metric for cornerbacks ranks Leon Hall’s 2009 season for the #Bengals as one of the best in the @PFF erahttps://t.co/h2wP3OiI7Y— PFF CIN Bengals (@PFF_Bengals) February 11, 2020
I had put too much weight into thinking that Hall would never be able to deal with NFL speed. I also didn’t consider that there are other things about his game that made him a respectable corner as well as he could get better as a young player.
That lesson has lasted with me. Patience is key when thinking of draft prospects. Sure, it doesn’t always work out. For every Boyd there is a Ross. We are also now watching to see if offensive lineman Jackson Carman can show he was worth some patience. There is no doubt that whoever ends up in Cincinnati will need the same treatment.