For anyone who reads my fantasy musings, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to hear that I was a big fan of the Bengals drafting John Ross with their first overall pick. He brings speed, speed, and more speed to an offense that now is loaded with weapons—especially when you remember they made a controversial pick selecting Joe Mixon in the second round.
While I may be high on Ross’ fantasy potential in Cincinnati, there are certainly some people who are not. The Ringer’s Robert Mays just released his top 20 fantasy rookies and ranked John Ross out of the top 10:
12. John Ross III, WR, Cincinnati
With the Bengals’ potential pass-protection issues (they finished 26th in adjusted sack rate last season with the now-departed Whitworth and Zeitler), Andy Dalton may not have the time to utilize Ross in the way he would like. Ross’s ability to take the top off a defense should help other playmakers in this offense exploit the underneath areas of the field, but his own fantasy value could be limited as a result of landing on a team with a shoddy line and a quarterback not known for his deep-ball prowess.
Now, I won’t say my love for Ross has blinded me to the point where I can’t recognize many of the points Mays brings up have some merit to them. Yes, the Bengals’ offensive line was decimated during this offseason and that’ll likely have a big impact on Andy Dalton’s ability to get the ball downfield. Also there’s this guy A.J. Green on the team who, last time I checked, is really, really good at football.
But leaving Ross out of the top 10?
Is Evan Engram—who Mays had at 11—really that much better than Ross? He finds himself in an offense that has even more mouths to feed and a quarterback that at times likes to throw interceptions more than completed passes. Kareem Hunt—Mays’ 10th best fantasy rookie—still needs to win the starting job in Kansas City before he becomes fantasy valuable.
I recognize that most likely Ross is going to be a boom-or-bust receiver who you hope will have more booms than busts. That being said, Ross is more than just a speedster who can take the top off a defense. He is a good route runner and will make plays in the return game. Plus, outside of Green and Tyler Eifert (who’s been having trouble staying on the field recently), Dalton really doesn’t have other weapons to pass to. The Bengals second most targeted receiver last year? 30-year-old Brandon LaFell.
There are targets to be had in Cincinnati and I’m hesitant to think that the Bengals aren’t planning on integrating Ross’ speed into their offense more completely than just “run deep fast”. I think fantasy owners could be pleasantly surprised by Ross’ rookie season.