Ross never worked in Cincinnati. He was drafted for his speed and quickness, but never endeared himself to the coaching staff. He didn’t record a catch in his rookie year. Last year, he did see 60 targets but caught only 21 passes (though he did score a whopping seven touchdowns on those catches). When Bengals’ QBs targeted Ross, the average yard per target was a terrible 3.5.
Still, he was drafted at ninth overall because of his speed, and some team may be tempted to take a chance. So what level of gamble is worth it?
Here’s a list of every wide receiver drafted in the Top 20 since 1978 to have fewer than 500 yards receiving in the first two years in the league combined.
Most were busts. Santana Moss and Haywood Jeffires would emerge from slow starts and become pro bowlers. Darrius Heyward-Bey at least had a couple of seasons with more than 600 yards receiving, and has remained in the league as a backup into his thirties. Desmond Howard became a star return man. Santana Moss, from a body style/speed standpoint, represents Ross’ upside.
But still, only about 20% of these guys worked out.
For comparison, 29 of 150 wide receivers drafted in the second round made a pro bowl, so right about 20%. By the third round, that number becomes 11%. Now, Ross is more expensive than what you would pay a third round pick, and you would get his contract for a shorter period of time, but I would put his value at around late third round pick for a team willing to take a chance, and if you can get him for less than that, it’s a gamble worth taking.