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John Ross does not make sense as a trade target for the Packers

Spoiler alert: probably not.

Cincinnati Bengals v Miami Dolphins Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

Trade rumors surrounding John Ross aren’t anything new. Going back to his rookie season, Ross had been the subject of Twitterverse trade talks after the Cincinnati Bengals thought about using him as a cornerback. In a report by Mike Garafolo on Tuesday’s Good Morning Football, Ross and his agent have reportedly asked the Bengals to explore trading the speedster as he wants a new start elsewhere. Aside from the complications of a trade in a COVID world, would John Ross actually fit in with the Green Bay Packers?

Green Bay could certainly use a more reliable deep threat. Marquez Valdes-Scantling just isn’t very good. He has never posted a positive DVOA, his ball-tracking is incredibly poor, and his hands have been sub-par. Ross would be brought in to fill his role at WR3 and as a deep threat, at least in theory.

  • 26 catches, 452 yards, 5.7% drop rate, 48% catch rate, 8.1 yards/target
  • 28 catches, 506 yards, 17.5% drop rate, 50% catch rate, 9.0 yards/target

One of these players is 2019 Marquez Valdes-Scantling. The other is John Ross. I’ll leave it up to you to figure out which is which...

Just kidding. The first is MVS and the second is John Ross.

It gets a little more complicated than just those raw numbers. For example, MVS had one of the worst DVOAs in the league in 2019 at -15.5%. Ross was not great, but closer to average at -4.5%. According to SIS, while Ross had massive troubles with drops, he did bring in 70% of catchable balls compared to MVS’ 74%.

There is also the difference in quarterbacks. Compare the group of people who have been in Cincinnati during Ross’ career to Aaron Rodgers, even a mediocre 2018/19 Rodgers: Andy Dalton (24 games), Jeff Driskel (5 games), Ryan Finley (3 games), Joe Burrow (6 games). Ross’ situation has been pretty terrible.

But Ross has also been pretty terrible. I highlighted 2019 because it was Ross’ best season. He only played 8 games, but was at least serviceable. In his rookie season of 2017, he was nearly moved to cornerback. In 2018, he played in 13 games, starting 10, but posted a catch rate of just 36% and had a 20% drop rate. His DVOA in 2018 was the worst in the league amongst qualifying receivers at -33.3%. In 2020, Ross has hardly played, receiving only seven targets and amassing two catches.

If you don’t like MVS, you will hate John Ross. There are the few explosive plays where you see his combination of speed and agility on display. There are also an endless barrage of plays where he misreads a ball, drops a pass, or is weak at the catch-point. Given that Green Bay would like to add some consistency into its receiving corps, I don’t see how John Ross provides that. Green Bay wouldn’t have to take on much on the cap for this season, but Green Bay also doesn’t have a lot to work with. According to Packers Twitter cap expert Ken Ingalls, the Packers have about $5.379 million in effective cap space. I can’t imagine they’d want to burn any of that on John Ross, who would be about four times as expensive as a street free agent and hasn’t been much more effective for his career.

Ross’ potential is tantalizing because you want him to be so much more than he is because of his raw physical gifts. If he could learn to track the ball even half-decently and catch the ball a little bit better, he might be a Ted Ginn-type, where his field stretching is a value-add and he catches the ball often enough to make it worthwhile. Right now, however, he is a long ways from that and I’m not sure teams should be lining up for anything more than a camp invite this off-season.