Ross is the first UW wide receiver drafted since Reggie Williams in 2004.
In the days leading up to the NFL draft, it was suggested by some media analysts that concerns over John Ross III’s injury history would cause him to drop toward the bottom of the first round — if not out of the first round entirely.
Ross felt all along he belonged in the top 10, and the fastest man in the NFL draft proved to be right.
“My head almost came off my shoulders,” the former Washington receiver said in a conference call shortly after the Cincinnati Bengals made him the No. 9 selection Thursday night.
“I was very excited. I definitely expected (it). Me believing in myself I expected to go in the top 10. I felt like I have top-10 talent. I think the only thing I felt like was holding me back was the speculations about my injuries.”
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Ross, in attendance at the draft in Philadelphia, was the only Husky selected in the first round Thursday.
Cornerback Kevin King was in also in Philadelphia but was one of five players in attendance not selected in the first round. King, safety Budda Baker, Sidney Jones and perhaps defensive lineman Elijah Qualls could all hear their names called in the second or third rounds on Friday.
Ross, meanwhile, is the first UW wide receiver to be selected at any point in the NFL draft since Reggie Williams also went ninth overall to Jacksonville in 2004. (Quarterback Isaiah Stanback was drafted by Dallas in the fourth round in 2007 and converted to wide receiver.)
Ross is also the Huskies’ highest draft pick since quarterback Jake Locker went eighth overall to Tennessee in 2011.
Despite setting an NFL combine record with a 4.22-second 40-yard dash in early March, Ross was dogged by questions about his injury history in the buildup to the draft.
Ross missed 2015 season with a torn ACL and had to have shoulder surgery last month to repair a torn labrum. He said he expects to be cleared to practice by July.
In Cincinnati, Ross is expected to contend for a starting job immediately opposite A.J. Green, one of the NFL’s most productive receivers.
“This guy’s role kind of jumps out at you with his speed,” Bengals offensive coordinator Ken Zampese told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “The thing that jumps out at you as well when you watch some more is he’s a technician as well. He takes great pride in his craft, getting in and out of breaks, not a lot of wasted motion. He transitions very well.”
Even while playing through the shoulder injury in 2016, Ross put together one of the best seasons by a wide receiver in UW history. He had 81 catches for 1,150 yards and 17 touchdowns, helping the Huskies reach the College Football Playoff for the first time. He was named the Huskies’ offensive MVP and the Pac-12 offensive player of the year by The Associated Press.
In three seasons for the Huskies, Ross scored 26 total touchdowns, including a school-record four kickoff-return TDs.
“There are wow plays,” Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said.
As part of his guaranteed four-year rookie contract, Ross is expected to make about $17.2 million in all, which should include a signing bonus of about $10.6 million.