The Bengals had a chance to take a number of defenders still on the board, including pass-rushers Jonathan Allen and Derek Barnett, and linebacker Reuben Foster. Coach Marvin Lewis said no team wanted to trade up when Cincinnati was on the clock, so obviously John Ross was valued enough to take at No. 9. His selection might seem a little high considering who was available, but speed at receiver was one of Cincinnati’s bigger needs — Ross ran a record 4.22 40-yard dash at the NFL combine. The Bengals relied heavily on star receiver A.J. Green through the first half of the season but had few people able to step up in his place when Green went down toward the end. The Bengals needed a pass-rusher, but they also needed to give their offense a boost one way or another.
Medical concerns? The 5-foot-11, 188-pound Ross is going to have to prove his durability after a series of knee injuries during his career. Ross tore his ACL and had a meniscus injury in 2015. He also tore his labrum last season and played through that before undergoing surgery in the offseason. The Bengals might have to limit how they use him because of his injury history, but with Green, Tyler Eifert, Tyler Boyd and Brandon LaFell, they might be able to get a little creative.
The next kick returner: Bengals wide receiver Alex Erickson can probably be forgiven if he’s a little worried. Erickson beat out longtime kick returner Brandon Tate to take the sixth wide receiver spot and showed promise there, leading the NFL with 810 kickoff return yards. But Ross was a superstar kickoff returner in college, returning four for touchdowns in his career. Ross’ presence could make it more difficult to justify keeping Erickson unless they start using him more as a receiver.
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