Posted June 8, 2017
Following the NFL Draft John Ross checks many boxes as a potential breakout candidate for fantasy. First, the Cincinnati Bengals drafted him with the 9th overall pick. Traditionally, top ten picks in the NFL draft see the field quickly, which bodes well for Ross’ fantasy value. Additionally, Ross produced all over the field at the University of Washington. He finished 2016 with 81 receptions for 1,150 yards and 17 receiving touchdowns. Looking at these numbers more closely, he finished 14th in the nation with 3.04 yards per route and finished 8th in the country catching 48.1 percent of his deep targets. The kicker on top of this collegiate production is his 4.22 speed. Together, unprecedented speed of this kind and elite collegiate production add to his upside as a fantasy receiver this fall.
Despite the glowing numbers above, many concerns surround John Ross. The first is his well-documented injury history. The known injuries include a left ACL tear, a left meniscus tear, a right ACL tear, microfracture knee surgery, and labrum surgery in his shoulder. After seeing this injury list it is surprising he could run his 4.0 at all, let alone break the record. Additionally, Ross has some depth chart issues, which need to be discussed. While he was drafted at the 9th position, the Bengals chose to resign Brandon LaFell this offseason. Ross played over 90 percent of his snaps for Washington at outside receiver. Assuming AJ Green isn’t coming off the field this leaves Ross to compete with LaFell for the other outside position. The Bengals recently signed LaFell to a two-year deal, which pays him 9 million dollars. This deal is front loaded and will cost the Bengals almost nothing in 2018 if they choose to cut him. However, they are set to owe LaFell 5 million dollars in 2017, which leads me to believe they envision a role for LaFell this season and potentially in 2018. Additionally, Tyler Boyd projects to continue working from the slot after being drafted in the second round last year. Therefore, unless he beats LaFell outright for the job or learns to play the slot, I do not see a clear path to substantial targets for John Ross.
The Bottom Line
Although extremely talented, I do not see John Ross as an option for redraft fantasy leagues. He will likely see the field in a situation role, as he competes with Brandon LaFell for a role opposite AJ Green. Additionally, more targets could be funneled from Ross due to other receiving options. Tyler Eifert will command red zone targets from his tight end position and Tyler Boyd will sap short to intermediate targets from the slot. He will also have to compete with fellow rookie Joe Mixon, who excelled in college as a pass catching running back. The bottom line for John Ross is that Cincinnati has too many mouths to feed for him to become a consistent fantasy asset in redraft leagues in 2017. Let your league-mates overdraft him in 2017, while you wait for a substantial discount in 2018.