CARSON, CA – DECEMBER 09: John Ross #15 of the Cincinnati Bengals run in after his catch for a touchdown, to trail 14-12 to the Los Angeles Chargers, during the second quarter at StubHub Center on December 9, 2018 in Carson, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

John Ross is on his way out of Cincinnati. According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Bengals are shopping the former ninth overall pick ahead of this year’s NFL Draft. Ross has all the talent in the world, but injuries and inconsistency kept him from playing up to his potential. The New England Patriots love taking in high-upside players, and John Ross should be the next low-risk acquisition to come to Foxboro.

Over the past few seasons, Bill Belichick has been notorious for acquiring highly-drafted players for pennies on the dollar. In the last two years alone, Belichick traded for former first-round picks Phillip Dorsett, Cordarrelle Patterson, and Danny Shelton. While none of those three set the world on fire, each was obtained for essentially nothing and helped New England win their sixth Super Bowl championship.

Ross could also bring depth to a shaky wide receiver depth chart. New England’s receivers were the weak link on the 2018 roster, and three of their top four options are headed to unrestricted free agency. Only Julian Edelman and Braxton Berrios are under contract for 2019, which means New England will need to find new players to bring into the mix.

Unfortunately for New England, the wide receiver market is drastically overvalued at the moment. The Patriots don’t pay elite money to above-average starters, and that philosophy extends to the wide receiver position. Teams around the league are currently giving good-but-not-great players like Brandin Cooks and Sammy Watkins over $15 million per year. Belichick won’t compete with that type of market, simply because it’s bad value.

Instead of paying top dollar for adequate production, Belichick has resorted to trading late-round picks for high-upside players. As previously mentioned, Phillip Dorsett and Cordarrelle Patterson both arrived in New England via low-risk trades. Adding John Ross won’t fix New England’s issues at wide receiver, but he’d be a cost-effective addition who offers significant upside.

How Ross Fits in New England

John Ross’ current situation mirrors Phillip Dorsett in 2017. At the time, Dorsett was a speedy wide receiver who never quite played up to his draft billing. Through his first two seasons in the league, Dorsett recorded just 51 receptions for 753 yards and three touchdowns.

Just like Dorsett, John Ross is a speedy wide receiver with deep-threat ability. Ross put his otherworldly speed on display when he recorded a record-setting 4.22 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. His game speed is evident on the field, but he’s yet to develop into a well-rounded player. Through two seasons, Ross has recorded just 21 receptions for 210 yards and seven touchdowns.

Unlike Dorsett, Ross has battled injury throughout the majority of his young career. Ross injured both his MCL and ACL in college, and the talented wide receiver missed the grand majority of his rookie year with another knee injury. Ross couldn’t even make it out of the NFL combine with a clean bill of health, as the wide receiver strained his calves during his record-setting run.

Bill Belichick is all about bargain hunting, and there isn’t a bigger bargain in the NFL than John Ross. While he may never play up to his initial draft pedigree, the talent is still there. Drafting him ninth overall will never look good, but acquiring him for a late-round pick could be an absolute steal.

How to Get Ross

The New England Patriots enter the 2019 NFL Draft with an absurd amount of capital. The Patriots have 12 picks in the upcoming rounds and have the ability to do just about anything they want to do.

New England will probably have to part with either their fourth-round or sixth-round pick to get Ross. Trading a sixth-round pick for Ross straight-up would be the best-case scenario, but that might not be enough to get the job done. Unless they packaged the sixth-rounder with one of their four seventh-round selections, New England will probably have to let go of their fourth-round pick. That said, a fourth-rounder for a player with 210 career yards would be a bad deal. If New England were to part with their fourth rounder, they’d probably also get a sixth- or seventh-round pick along with Ross.

Acquiring Ross shouldn’t have any effect on what the Patriots do this off-season. John Ross won’t stop them from getting a player like Adam Humphries. As great as he looked in college, Ross hasn’t put up any good NFL film. Relying on him to magically turn his career around is overly optimistic. Still, the upside is too good to ignore. Look for New England to acquire Ross in yet another low-risk, high-reward move while also adding at least one more receiver through the NFL Draft and/or free agency.

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