They believed in Ross enough to make him the ninth overall pick in 2017 even though he was recovering from a shoulder injury. Ross ran a combine-record 4.22 seconds in the 40-yard dash, and Cincinnati envisioned lining him up across from A.J. Green to provide another deep threat.
The shoulder injury and a knee injury limited him to three games as a rookie, when he didn’t catch a pass. Ross suffered a groin injury last season and played in 13 games. He had 21 catches for 210 yards and seven touchdowns.
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Several reports in the offseason said the Bengals were shopping him to other teams for draft picks. Ross was at the dentist when the first report came out, and his phone quickly was flooded with texts and calls that added to the confusion.
“My agent called me,” Ross said. “He didn’t know what was going on. He thought I was actually going to get traded.”
First-year head coach Zac Taylor then called to reassure him that he was staying in Cincinnati.
“That was a sigh of relief,” Ross said. “For him to call and let me know, I appreciated that just because you never know. You could be here one day and go the next.”
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Even so, the Bengals were expected to add at least one receiver in the draft. Green is back after missing nearly half the season with a toe injury. Tyler Boyd had a breakout season, leading the team with 78 catches and 1,028 yards receiving. No other wide receiver had as many as 200 yards. The passing game finished 24th in the league in yards.
Instead of a receiver, the Bengals drafted run-blocking tight end Drew Sample and two running backs among their 10 picks, which was a surprise.
“You always want to add weapons, but it didn’t shake out that way,” quarterback Andy Dalton said. “But I’ve got full confidence in the guys we’ve got here.”
Taylor said the Bengals wanted to add a receiver, but players at other positions were more enticing when it came time to pick. They got left tackle Jonah Williams in the first round and guard Michael Jordan in the fourth, looking to upgrade the line that has been a longstanding problem.
“We can go into the season with some good weapons at the receiver position, so we felt we had to add bodies elsewhere,” Taylor said.
Ross watched some of the draft, curious whether the Bengals would bring in another receiver. He knows the Bengals are open to adding one.
“I see the same thing happening in the future but as of right now, there was no one else taken,” Ross said. “We definitely still have a lot to do in order for them to put more trust in us, especially the young guys.”