John Ross, WR, Washington
(percentile rank among all WRs at the Combine since 1999, courtesy of mockdraftable.com):
40-yard dash: 4.22 (100th)
Vertical: 37” (72nd)
Broad: 133” (97th)
20-yard shuttle: DNP
Ross had an eventful college career. He arrived at Washington as a 4-star recruit and spent his freshman campaign playing WR and returning kicks. In addition to the 16-208-1 receiving line, he carried 6 times for 39 yards and averaged 23.1 yards per kick return with 1 TD.
Ross was on his way to a much more productive sophomore season, scoring in 4 of his first 5 games and posting his first 100-yard outing. But a depleted Huskies defensive backfield forced the team to move Ross into the secondary for the 2nd half of the season. He made 4 starts at DB and didn’t record a catch in any of the final 6 games. He did add a couple more TDs on kick returns.
His 2014 season also included a torn right MCL and meniscus — injuries Ross played through but required microfracture surgery that January.
Ross moved back to WR during the 2015 offseason. But a torn left ACL and meniscus in spring practice ended his year.
After a successful rehab, Ross turned in 1 of the more impressive 2016 campaigns among this draft class. He paced Washington in all major receiving categories, accounting for 31.9% of the team’s receptions, 31.7% of the receiving yards and 36.2% of the TDs. All 3 of those marks best the market shares of Clemson’s Mike Williams and USC’s JuJu Smith-Schuster.
Ross’ 17 receiving scores tied for 3rd in the country. He finished 21st in catches and 26th in yards. He added 102 more yards and another score on the ground — plus a kick-return TD.
And he did it all while playing through a torn labrum in his shoulder. He suffered the injury early in the season and then aggravated it in Washington’s semifinal loss to Alabama. Ross is scheduled for surgery after his March 11 Pro Day and is tentatively expected to be ready for training camp.
Courtesy of DraftBreakdown.com
Games watched - Rutgers, Stanford, Oregon, California, USC, Colorado
We didn’t need to see Ross break the Combine record with a 4.22-second 40-yard dash to know that he’s fast. Flip on any of his games and he’s clearly the fastest guy on the field. He gets on top of defenders in a hurry and breezes by them with ease.
Now, there’s not much else to his game — at least at this point. I’d call him an average route runner with maybe slightly above average change of direction. (Hopefully he’ll do the agility drills at his Pro Day.) But when you have a trump card like Ross’ speed, the rest doesn’t matter much.
He’s obviously a weapon in the deep passing game. Ross routinely made it look like DBs were running in quick sand as he whizzed by them.
He’s able to chew up cushions in a hurry and also has some tricks up his sleeve to defeat press coverage:
Ross is also an excellent ball tracker, an important trait for a downfield WR.
We also see his tracking ability on fade routes. That — plus crafty footwork — makes him effective on that route, despite his smallish frame.
Ross is also able to create plenty of separation on short and intermediate routes. Not necessarily because of his route running, but because of the respect defenders need to show for his deep speed.
Not surprisingly, speed is his primary weapon after the catch. But he does flash some make-you-miss ability.
There’s not much on Ross’ tape in contested-catch situations. But it’s tough to blame him: He creates so much separation that he rarely needs to contend with defenders for the ball.
You could certainly argue that Ross enters the NFL as a 1-dimensional WR. But it’s a helluva dimension. And he adds some nuances — footwork off the line of scrimmage, ball tracking — that enhance it.
Ross’ speed should immediately translate to the next level. A fair comparison for his game might be T.Y. Hilton, who banked on his speed early on and posted a 50-861-7 line as a rookie. Hilton has since become a more refined WR and emerged as a top-end fantasy performer. (Hilton, by the way, checked into the Combine at 5’10, 183 pounds and ran a 4.34 40 at his Pro Day.)
Ross’ career could follow a similar path. Remember that he only spent 2 full seasons playing WR at Washington, so there’s room for growth. If nothing else, that elite speed will give him big weekly upside in fantasy lineups.
The big concern, of course, is durability. Ross has suffered major injuries to both knees, plus the shoulder injury that will cost him time this spring. It’s fair to question how his body will hold up as a pro.