Ross has the opportunity to prove himself under a new coaching staff, but the fresh start won't mean much if he struggles during the offseason program and training camp. While competition for the No. 3 wide receiver spot isn't exactly fierce based on the current construction of the Cincinnati roster, there's still plenty of time to add bodies before Week 1. Bengals executive Duke Tobin shot down trade rumors about Ross back in February, saying the team hadn't engaged in any internal or external discussions about a trade. The No. 9 overall pick from the 2017 draft played just three games as a rookie, then posted a baffling 21-210-7 receiving line (58 targets, 3.6 YPT) in 13 games last season. Ross needs to find success on deep passes to stay relevant, as his conversion rate on inside-the-10 targets (five of six went for TDs) was really the only thing that went right for him last season.
Tobin didn't mince his words, denying a Monday report that the team is trying to find a trade for the No. 9 overall pick from the 2017 NFL Draft. Ross had one of the more unusual stat lines in recent memory during the 2018 season, scoring seven touchdowns on 21 receptions despite his abysmal marks for both yards per target (3.6) and catch rate (36.2 percent). The 24-year-old scored five times on six targets inside the 10-yard line, and his record-breaking speed (4.22 40-yard dash time) theoretically should open up more room for A.J. Green and Tyler Boyd on intermediate routes. Regardless, it's hard to see Ross emerging as anything more than the fourth or fifth option in Cincinnati's offense when all the key players are available.
The No. 9 overall pick from the 2017 draft has been a clear disappointment, playing three games as a rookie and then producing just 210 yards on 58 targets (3.6 average) in 13 appearances this past season. He's only 23 years old and is one of the fastest players in the league, but his lengthy medical record and slight frame (190 pounds) have been major concerns all along. Ross did have seven touchdowns among his 21 receptions in 2018, including five scores on six targets inside the 10-yard line. Given the potential for red zone contribution in addition to a field-stretching element, Ross could fetch a middle-round pick even if there isn't much hope he ever develops into a high-volume receiver. The Bengals are in good shape at the position with A.J. Green and Tyler Boyd, though they don't have an obvious replacement for the No. 3 job.
Ross was held to one catch for one yard on five targets in Sunday's loss to the Steelers. He finishes the season with 21 catches for 210 yards. albeit with seven touchdowns.
Though he's dealing with the noodle arm of Jeff Driskel, Ross isn't blame-free for his poor catch ratio. In fact, Ross has the lowest Catch Percentage among qualified receivers for the season at 36.21 percent. Given how much time he's missed due to injury so far as a pro, some patience is warranted with Ross, but his Year 3 season in 2019 will be critical.
Ross only corralled one of his five targets during Sunday's 26-18 loss to Cleveland, but that reception went for a three-yard touchdown. He added seven rushing yards on one carry.
The former No. 9 overall pick has been entirely touchdown-dependent this season. But the thing is, he's just keeps on scoring touchdowns (a completely unsustainable 35 percent of his receptions, and 13.2 percent of his targets have gone for scores). Ross has garnered a healthy 5.3 targets per game over his past seven outings, but has posted an incredibly inefficient catch rate of 35.1 percent during that span. He hasn't been the deep threat that he was during his collegiate career at Washington (15.2 yards per catch), averaging 10.8 YPC on the season, with eight performances of fewer than 17 receiving yards. Week 17 presents a challenging matchup for Ross, opposing a Ravens defense that surrendered 10 touchdowns to WRs in 2018 (third fewest).
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