He has average height at 5′ 10 3/8″ and weighs in at 188 pounds, as measured at the combine. He displays elite speed, agility, and overall athletic ability. I love his release off the line of scrimmage, leaning forward 45 degrees exactly like a sprinter.
Here’s an explosive first step right into a smooth stride and gait.
There is no question; his speed is elite. He ran a 4.22 at the NFL combine. That is the kind of speed that creates separation alone.
John Ross 4.22 pic.twitter.com/kBPWjYM3ap
— John Barchard (@JohnBarchard) March 4, 2017
Against man coverage, his elite feet and change of direction skills make him very difficult to defend (IF his release isn’t disrupted). The defender has Ross shaded inside to take away the slant. Ross sells the slant and leaves the defender behind for the easy touchdown in the back of the end zone.
He is able to win with double moves, causing defensive backs to become flatfooted or turned around while struggling to keep their eyes on both the QB and Ross. He loses very little speed while exaggerating the jab to the corner, all the while transitioning to the post.
My favorite attributes about him are his body control and ball tracking skills. These are things that many receivers struggle with. For guys who are considered ‘speedsters’, body control and ball tracking are of even more importance. Quarterbacks sometimes struggle with trajectory and accuracy when they are throwing to ‘speedsters’ down the field, so the receivers must be able to track the ball, adjust their pace, then adjust their body and approach to the catch. Down the field, Ross displays very good body control by torquing his frame into a position to track the ball over his shoulders.
Very good hand eye coordination and concentration allow him to make use of his soft hands in traffic. Here, he gets a clean outside release and has the defensive back thinking he is going to aim for the back of the end zone. Instead, he uses his speed to to bend the route towards the post to separate, brings in the catch, and gets one foot down.
He is fast, but sometimes guys lose a step when it comes to processing what is in front of them. That is not Ross. He displays good mental processing, bringing the ball in and setting up his first move away from the leverage of the defensive back. His athletic ability, elusiveness, and very good peripheral vision maximize YAC.
He displays average competitive toughness in the run game. I am not the biggest fan of his stalk blocking, which he has become accustomed to doing with the amount of off coverage he has faced. His smaller stature and below average play strength will hinder his effectiveness as a blocker.
Another worry of mine, or just something to keep an eye on when he starts playing on Sundays, is his struggle with press coverage. He gets easily knocked off balance during releases due to his small frame, which hinders his ability to separate early in the route stem. It is not something that he faced often on Saturdays, as teams feared his speed, but teams will test him early and often at the next level.
Ross displays below average competitive toughness at the catch point. When in tight coverage down the field, his smaller frame and adequate play strength don’t allow him to ‘body’ a defender or use his 37″ vertical.
Overall, he is a starter in the NFL whose attributes will be best utilized as a Z wide receiver or in the slot as a vertical threat to take the top off of coverages. Placing him off the line of scrimmage allows him to avoid jam techniques and gives the option of Jet Sweeps and Jet Motions to stretch defenses horizontally as a decoy or runner. He obviously has rare straight line speed, but his speed does translate on the field. He consistently wins with that speed, but he also wins with his ball tracking skills and mental processing. Ross can win with speed before the ball is in the air, he can carry the ball and create explosive plays, and he can win after the ball is in the air by utilizing his body control and ball tracking skills. These are all skills that will translate to the NFL and will get him drafted in the first round.
Potential Bills fit:
The Bills wide receiving corps is in a transitional phase. Only four wide receivers are under contract for 2017, so Ross would be a fantastic edition to the unit. Pairing him with Sammy Watkins as a Z wide receiver would automatically make it one of the most dangerous down the field combinations in the NFL, but a receiver with his traits is not what the Bills need. I would not draft him with the 10th overall pick. Offensive coordinator Rick Dennison will be incorporating more west coast principles into the passing game, which means Ross would fit it perfectly. Ross is a guy who is a threat to take it to the house each and every time he touches the ball. He can stretch the defense vertically or horizontally on jet sweeps, but he is also a player that has added value in the kick return game, having returned 86 balls for 2,069 yards and four touchdowns.