Fantasy Football Rookies

Bengals WR John Ross 2017 Fantasy Value

John Ross Fantasy 2017

Leading up to the 2017 NFL Draft, most of the draft experts from had the Cincinnati Bengals selecting a defensive prospect with the ninth overall pick, more so, an edge rusher or linebacker. However, as our very own Mike Rigz predicted, the Bengals selected former Washington wide receiver, John Ross, instead.

While selecting Ross was a head scratcher to some, here are some of the reasons why it makes sense:

  • Cincinnati’s offense finished 15th in total passing in back-to-back seasons. Although the Bengals lost Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu via free agency in the 2016 offseason, they replaced them with Tyler Boyd and Brandon LaFell. Although the passing attack didn’t skip a beat, it also didn’t regress or improve.
  • Perhaps the Bengals were alarmed by A.J. Green’s hamstring strain suffered during Week 11, which ultimately ended his season. Green, 28, will turn 29-years-old on July 31 and is not getting any younger. He was sidelined for the final six games in 2016 as a result of the aforementioned injury, while only missing a total of four in the previous five seasons. Green finished the year with a 66-964-4 stat line, but it was the first time in his career that he failed to record at least 1,000 yards receiving and score at least six touchdowns.
  • The Bengals were in need of a long-term answer at the No. 2 receiver spot opposite Green. Although LaFell, who held down that role last season, is a reliable asset, he is hardly the player that Ross is touted to be. Plus, he’ll turn 31 on Nov. 4 and is entering the backend of his career.

A Red Flag?

Something that is alarming about Ross is his health and durability. Throughout his collegiate career at Washington, Ross dealt with multiple knee issues, most notably, a torn ACL which cost him his junior year in 2015. Plus, he suffered a shoulder injury early in the 2016 campaign, which he aggravated in December. It was diagnosed as a torn labrum and underwent surgery to repair the injury following the NFL scouting combine. As a result, the 21-year-old rookie is not expected to be cleared for minicamp but should be a full-go for the start of training camp in late July.

Fantasy Implications

[the_ad id=”66786″]Barring a setback, Ross is fully expected to open the 2017 season as Cincinnati’s No. 2 wideout starting opposite Green. His fantasy football owners should be thrilled. Of the three receivers selected in the first round of April’s draft, only Corey Davis is heading into a more favorable situation. Remember, Mike Williams was selected by a Chargers team that is loaded with offensive firepower, especially in the pass-catcher department. His production will be erratic and inconsistent in that offense, especially if Keenan Allen remains healthy.

Now, Davis has an outstanding opportunity to emerge as Tennessee’s top receiver in 2017, which is why he appears to be in the better spot, but hear me out for a second. While Davis could see a greater amount of targets, he could also see double coverage if he begins to breakout, which is a lot for a rookie to take on while learning how to play at the pro level. Lining up opposite Davis will be Rishard Matthews, who isn’t a slouch, but he also isn’t Green. I’ll take Ross’ situation over Davis’ any day.

Although Ross was the last of the trio of wideouts selected in the first round, he could be the No. 1 choice from a fantasy football perspective. I already explained why he is entering the best situation, now let me go further into detail about why a fantasy owner should view him as the top rookie receiver on the board.

While the Bengals employ a plethora of weapons that include Green, Ross, LaFell, Boyd and Tyler Eifert, only Green, Ross and Eifert are considered as must-owns. With Green drawing the double coverage, plus, the opposing defense’s top cover cornerback, Ross should see plenty of one-on-one opportunities to utilize his blazing 4.22 speed on the outside. If he gets a step on his defender, and there are not many No. 2 corners in the league that can keep up with him, Ross is a big play waiting to happen any time he is on the field. Oh, and let’s not forget the presence of Eifert either, who when healthy, will command top coverage over the middle as well.

I understand that Green and Eifert were both sidelined for six and eight games respectively last season, which is why their totals are so low. But this chart is more about showcasing LaFell’s totals at the two spot. He caught 64-of-106 targets for 862 yards and six touchdowns, with the bulk of his production coming from Week 12 and beyond while Green was on the mend. From Week 1 to Week 11, LaFell caught 31 targets for 419 yards and four touchdowns with Green in, and from Week 12 to Week 17 he caught 31 receptions for 443 yards and two scores with Green out. If Ross could match LaFell’s totals from 2016, he’d be viewed a rising star in fantasy football. However, I’d expect the rookie to exceed those numbers.

Since Ross is entering a welcoming situation with a reliable signal caller in Andy Dalton throwing him the ball, I would target him well ahead of his WR57, #148 overall ADP. The speedy rookie will translate into a bonafide WR2 sooner rather than later with his only deterrent begin himself due to his injury history.

Bengals’ 2016 Receiving Stats

Player REC Targets Yards YPC TDs
A.J. Green 66 100 964 14.6 4
Brandon LaFell 64 106 862 13.5 6
Tyler Boyd 54 81 603 11.2 1
Tyler Eifert 29 47 394 13.6 5
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