John Ross
John Ross has the potential to turn his career around in New York. (Sam Greene, Cincinnati Enquirer)

John Ross was the ninth overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft. After breaking the 40-yard dash record at the combine with a blazing 4.22, Ross was drafted early to the Cincinnati Bengals. High hopes were not met in his career as injuries have thrown off any semblance of consistent production.

Injuries

In just four seasons, Ross has suffered, two knee strains, an arm injury, a severe foot injury, and a joint sprain, totaling 37 missed games. Obviously, Ross has durability concerns, but he shouldn’t be labeled a bust just yet after not even having a chance to complete a full season. Ross has now signed a deal with the New York Giants where he gets a chance to turn around his career.

College

At Washington, Ross dominated the college football scene. His speed and shiftiness made him a menace with the ball in his hands. However, Ross wasn’t pigeon-holed into a gadget receiver, rather he routinely made plays downfield and created separation in his routes. Ross was an electric playmaker all three seasons at Washington, amassing 1,150 yards and 17 touchdowns in his final season before declaring for the draft.

 All eyes were on Ross at the NFL Combine in hopes to see a record broken for the first time since Chris Johnson in 2008. The 40 yard dash time raised Ross’s draft stock through the roof and caused him to go to a Cincinnati team that lacked a situation for him to succeed in.

Woes in Cincinnati

A knee strain limited Ross’s rookie campaign to a mere 3 games, but Ross was healthy for the majority of his sophomore season. Unfortunately, the Bengals’ offense wasn’t so prosperous. Playing third fiddle to AJ Green and Tyler Boyd where Andy Dalton struggled mightily throughout the season, it would be tough for any receiver to thrive.

Additionally, Dalton could not deliver the deep ball that season, hooking up with Ross 36% of the time when targeting him. Dalton ended the year with a lowly completion percentage of 61.9, ranking 28th among quarterbacks. In his limited playing time, Ross looked every bit of the ninth overall pick Cincinnati hoped to draft.

Ross’s third year in the league is where he was primed to breakout. Ross started out hot, torching the Seahawks to the tune of 158 yards on 7 catches and 2 scores. He followed that up with a 112 yard 1 touchdown performance against San Francisco.

The next two weeks were offensive disasters for the Bengals as they totaled 20 points and Ross couldn’t get anything going before a joint sprain cut 8 games out of his season. Ross came back on a limited basis to end the season totaling 506 yards, where over half of that production came in the 4 games before injury.

As the Bengals moved on from Andy Dalton to Joe Burrow in 2020, there were great expectations that John Ross would bounce back with better quarterback play. And yet again, injuries cut that dream down as Ross suffered a foot injury that cut his season short after week 1.

Going Forward

And thus, a disappointing tenure with the Bengals comes to an end. Ross will part ways with the organization after a stretch of health issues. However, the production in limited time and intangibles Ross possesses make him an intriguing option for receiver-needy teams in free agency.

He is better than anyone else at taking the top off defenses, opening up the field for other receivers in the short and intermediate game. With the ball in his hands, Ross is one of the most elusive players in the league, making defenders miss with the combination of his blistering speed and quick feet. His change of direction helps him not only to avoid tacklers but also to create massive separation on routes.

New York Giants

Ross possesses a high average depth of target of 13.8 in his career along with a mere 41.5% catch rate. Andy Dalton’s lack of accuracy led to Ross’s shortcomings as a receiver, thus going forward a quarterback with a more accurate deep ball is an ideal candidate to unlock Ross’s true potential.

Now on the New York Giants, quarterback Daniel Jones has the potential to unleash John Ross’s true potential. Known for his accurate deep ball, Jones will display much better chemistry with Ross compared to Andy Dalton. Since the departures of Golden Tate and Wayne Gallman, 79 targets have been freed up on the Giants offense, more than enough to make John Ross a significant factor in the passing game.

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