Bengals freezing cold NFL Draft takes: From John Ross to Leon Hall teaches a valuable lesson

The NFL Draft is a time for everyone to voice their opinion on draft prospects’ futures. Some players look like they will translate to the NFL easier than others, but that doesn’t always happen.

To celebrate a whole new crop that is bound to get cold over time this weekend, I’ll be looking back at some of my coldest including going back to a player who taught me a very valuable lesson about the draft.

It is usually important to try and approach the draft with some optimism. That usually led me away from some of the takes that took a few seasons to get cold like Tyler Boyd needs to show up a few seasons to be one of the best slot receivers in the NFL.

However, I have always held that optimism for teams outside of Cincinnati. It has also led to some serious letdowns. None of those letdowns compare to my first – and probably the coldest – take.

My worst recent Bengals’ draft take

The name John Ross carries some serious weight among fans in Cincinnati. He represents so much of what those final years of the Marvin Lewis era represented. A hope that things were changing and modernizing only to fall flat.

I was unapologetically one of Ross’ biggest supporters after being drafted 9 overall in the 2017 draft. He had just broken the 40-yard dash record at the NFL Combine and on top of that he showed homerun speed on the field during his time at Washington. Things even started out great. He was one of the best plays we Bengals fans have seen since Giovanni Bernard’s reversed field against the Miami Dolphins on Thursday Night Football.

Unfortunately, this was one of the biggest peaks he had as a Bengal. During the rest of his time the Lewis era was filled with injuries and disappointing outings filled with drops or being nonexistent.

When Zac Taylor took over my faith was reignited in Ross. It seemed like Lewis didn’t believe in a young receiver or an offense that could use him. I thought Ross could easily replicate the Brandin Cooks role that Taylor had seen first-hand with the Los Angeles Rams. And Week 1 was probably the apex of Ross’ career.

Even in that game, drops were an issue. It seemed like the former first-round selection just couldn’t get out of its own way. Many speculated it was a confidence issue and that being drafted with the expectations that came along with being a top 10 pick was simply too much for Ross.

Either way, my expectations that he could possibly be a guy who could open up to a crime that had grown stagnate never materialized. Ross spent the last year with the New York Giants and is currently a free agent. This draft miss is all bad with quarterback Patrick Mahomes being taken directly after Ross. Something that will be pointed at for years to come.

My worst recent overall draft take

When the Arizona Cardinals hired Kliff Kingsbury, a narrative that the team could use was their first overall selection at quarterback Kyler Murray. The former Texas Tech coach has tried to recruit Murray since he was a sophomore in high school.

In my eyes, this notion seemed ridiculous. Even with a new head coach hiring a team, the team had just drafted Josh Rosen a year after trading up to select him. The idea that a team would spend a lot of draft capital on a quarterback only hired a coach that didn’t believe in him and moved on from him after only a single season.

While Murray and the Cardinals appear to be having some drama this offseason, there is no doubt this move has worked out. Murray has been responsible for 4,000 total yards each of his three seasons. 2020 was by far his best year with 26 passing touchdowns and another 11 rushing. His added ability as a runner has easily made him one of the most dynamic young quarterbacks in the NFL despite his tenure over the team’s disappointing performances. He lost his first career playoff game last season to the eventual Super Bowl champion Rams.

Rosen, meanwhile, was traded to the Miami Dolphins. Since his rookie season, Rosen has thrown for 600 yards with one touchdown compared to seven interceptions. He spent some time on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers practice squad learning from Tom Brady. However, his most recent appearance with the Atlanta Falcons was completing him as many of his 11 pass attempts to his teammates (two) as the defense (two interceptions).

Even if things go sour with Murray and the Cardinals over the next few years, there is no doubt that they have made the right call switching over to Murray.

Most memorable cold take on a Bengals draft pick

For clarities sake, I’ve been following the Bengals closely since the 2005 season. I don’t recall being so upset that a pick that turned out to be good as Cincinnati took Michigan cornerback Leon Hall in the first round of the 2007 NFL Draft. That was also the first draft I was obsessed with creating mock drafts for. I would join Myspace groups as a role dedicated to filling certain teams and what mocking teams would do.

I remember thinking the Bengals would add a cornerback to some kind of put across from Jonathan Joseph. The dream was that Darrelle Revis would fall somehow to pick no. 18. However, there was no luck there. Then my attention turned to pass rusher Jarvis Moss, who went off the board directly before Cincinnati. I remember thinking they would probably select either Texas defensive back Michael Griffin or Aaron Ross.

Then they selected Hall. Someone I saw as one of the biggest busts in this draft. You know why I thought that? Because Michigan played Ohio State, Ted Ginn Jr. absolutely roasted him. He had eight catches for 104 yards and a touchdown.

Not all of that was on Hall, but the touchdown came out with a missed tackle. In my young eyes, he was just going to get toasted in the NFL on a regular basis.

You really shouldn’t put so much merit into one performance though. Hall went on to be probably the best corner for the Bengals during his tenure. He and Joseph made up one of the best duos in the NFL while they played together. Hall also went on to become one of the best nickel corners as well.

We can also look back now and recognize how great it was with some actual numbers to represent it.

I had to put a lot of weight into thinking that Hall would never be able to deal with NFL speed. I also didn’t consider that there were other things about his game that made him an respectable corner as well as he could get better as a young player.

That lesson has lasted with me. Patience is the key when thinking of draft prospects. Sure, it doesn’t always work out. For every Boyd there is a Ross. We are also now watching to see if offensive lineman Jackson Carman can show he was worth some patience. There is no doubt whoever ends up in Cincinnati will need the same treatment.

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