It was all spectacle and hype for John Ross ahead of a rookie season riddled with injuries and disappointment. Being the fastest man in the room means nothing if unable to get on the field. Ross, the ninth pick of the NFL Draft, was a gift the Cincinnati Bengals never got a chance to unwrap.
It has left fans wondering if the Bengals blew the most important pick of the draft, and behind the veil of media-ready responses, the Bengals have to be wondering the same thing.
Ross was officially placed on injured reserve on Wednesday with a shoulder injury. The 22-year-old wideout didn’t catch a single pass in the three games he appeared in during the season. His lone stat was a running play for 12 yards in September against the Houston Texans.
Like most teams, the Bengals were infatuated with Ross’s record-breaking 40-yard dash (4.22). They were so enamored they were willing to overlook his injury history coming out of college. There was also the fact that he came from a Washington program that didn’t face many imposing defenses, outside of the CFB Playoff semifinal game against Alabama. He was held to only five catches for 28 yards in that game.
The Bengals gambled on Ross’ speed translating into a younger version of Antonio Brown in the NFL, but his route-running isn’t up to par with arguably the league’s best receiver. That doesn’t mean he can’t improve in the offseason and ultimately become the player the Bengals envisioned when they drafted him.
However, when looking at all of the impactful players the Bengals passed up in the draft, there are definitely sweaty palms in the front office right now.
“I think I could help contribute,” Ross said back in November. “It’s tough for me to say what I think I can do, because I don’t like talking like I’m some type of ‘a guy’ where I can just do whatever I think can do. I live in the moment, I work hard, and I’d rather just show you more than I can tell you.”
Whatever Ross has to show will have to wait until 2018. By then, the Bengals should have a better idea of whether he’s a catch or first-round mistake.