As you all know, we are well and truly entrenched into draft season. The Shrine Game and Senior Bowl are done, the NFL Scouting Combine has come and gone, and pro days are now finished. One wide receiver in this draft class who figures to be a first-round draft pick is John Ross III out of University of Washington.
There are many reasons why Ross should be drafted on Day 1, and it’s not just because of his elite speed. We saw Ross break the 40-yard dash record at the combine with a time of 4.22, so we know he is fast, but going back to his tape we can see that he can do much more than just be an effective deep threat, with traits elsewhere that will allow him to find success at the next level.
Working in Space
Ross was able to find success last season in Washington’s short passing game, as they looked to work him into space to take advantage of his elusiveness and ability to make guys miss with great vision and body control.
On the play below against Washington State, Ross is lined up to the right of the formation, playing against off coverage. Even before the snap, we can already see he has plenty of room to work with. As he receives the pass he slips trying to work to the outside, but recovers well and is able to work back inside, making defenders miss and fighting his way for a first down:
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In the NFL, he may not be allowed this kind of space in the shorter areas of the field. While I fully expect that whoever drafts Ross will prefer to put him in positions to run deeper routes, if he can find space underneath he has the tools and abilities to take advantage of any space given to him.
Tracking the Ball
Every receiver needs to be able to track the ball well in the air to be successful. But can every receiver track the ball well when it is thrown a little in front of them, away from their frame and over the shoulder?
Against California yes, he uses his elite speed to split the two defensive backs from the slot position, but it’s what he is able to do to make the catch that stands out on this play. As he darts toward the sideline on this corner route, Ross tracks the ball, while using great body control and hand-eye coordination, to make the catch as the ball comes over his shoulder:
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It’s catches like this that use more than just speed that make Ross more than just a one-dimensional player.
Separation in the Red Zone
While Ross’s biggest asset is obviously his speed, he also demonstrates the ability to separate at the line of scrimmage with more than just quickness. He is not the most physical receiver at the line, but he is able to separate using good burst, footwork, and technique.
Once again against the Cougars, Ross is lined up against man coverage and uses not only quick footwork to get inside on this slant route, but strong hands to create separation at the start of the route. He is then able to snatch the ball out of the air and give his team a 1st and goal situation.
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Although Ross faced a lot of off-coverage last season where cornerbacks were certainly conscious of his ability as a deep threat, when he faced man/press coverage he was able to make plays using his ability to separate early in the route.
John Ross is certainly an intriguing prospect, and much of that stems from his elite speed. But, the more I watch of him the more I believe he can be more than just a deep threat, as he’s displayed the ability to make plays all over the field, using other traits he clearly possesses.
Should NFL teams be concerned about his injury history after suffering two serious knee injuries? Not as much as you may think. Both these injuries came before last season and he came back from them strong and has put himself in position to be a high draft pick. He also played through last year with a shoulder injury so his toughness shouldn’t be put into question.
For more on John Ross, including scheme fit and one-to-three year projection, purchase our Inside The Pylon draft guide at www.itpdraftguide.com for scouting reports on 99 other players and much more.