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Report: Bengals are looking to trade former 1st round pick WR John Ross

The 49ers were interested in him in 2017.

The Cincinnati Bengals appear ready to move on from wide receiver John Ross, the ninth overall pick of the 2017 NFL Draft. The team is looking to trade him, according to multiple reports.

Ross left tongues wagging at the 2017 NFL Combine, running a 4.22 40-yard dash. He was described as an “instant-impact weapon” who could immediately contribute as a kick returner and slot receiver. However, he only appeared in three games his rookie season, and had no receptions. In his second season, he had 21 receptions for 210 yards and seven touchdowns. He is due $2,020,988 and $2,798,982 each of the next two seasons, and that is fully guaranteed. If he was traded, the new team would take on those guaranteed salaries.

Given the relative lack of playing time for the former first round pick, much of the evaluation will be based on how teams saw him leading up to the 2017 NFL Draft. And while we don’t know all the specifics, we do know that the 49ers were impressed with Ross. Peter King spent that draft embedded in Santa Clara with the 49ers brain trust, and a couple things came from that.

In his write-up of the draft, King talked about the 49ers looking to move up from pick 34 in the second round, regardless of what happened with the No. 3 overall pick (this was before the trade with the Bears). In discussing the move, Ross’ name came up with some others.

“If we pull this off with Chicago,” Marathe says, “that extra three … you can get up to 21 from 34. And you still have your original three. You can use 34 and then Chicago’s third to get to 21.”

Shanahan: “Remember … I think because it’s tonight and we have the night to talk about it afterward, whatever we are getting for a pick if we move back, we have time to study that team’s roster. And get them to throw in another player who has one year left on their contract. Someone who can start for us for a year. Keep that in mind.”

Moving from 34 to the area around 21 is important, they think, because one of their targets should they deal down from two to the area between eight and 15 could be there: running back Christian McCaffrey, wide receiver John Ross, edge rushers Charles Harris, T.J. Watt or maybe Takkarist McKinley, and perhaps a wild card.

They ended up moving up and grabbing Reuben Foster once he slipped to the end of the first round. Ross went ninth overall, so they were never going to be able to move up far enough to get him, but they were still complimentary. A month after the draft, King put together power rankings that included numerous draft nuggets. In discussing the Bengals, King offered this:

And while in San Francisco for the draft this year, I sensed how much the Niners loved John Ross. “A true separator,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “A difference-maker.”

Shanahan and Lynch might see his film from the past two years and think clearly something was off from their initial assessment. They could also see a guy who might be a fit in their system. If the price is right, maybe it works out.

Marquise Goodwin worked out in 2017 as a game-breaker, but struggled in 2018. During his struggles, Dante Pettis showed game-breaking ability, and of course tight end George Kittle blew up in a big way. But the team cannot have enough playmakers, and if they think Ross can still match his college potential, they might figure out a way to make something happen.

What would you give up in a deal to get Ross?