Top Draft Prospect: John Ross III

 

We are officially ten-days from the 2017 NFL draft. We at FFCircus are so excited for the draft that we are tabling completed material we had planned for this week in favor of hastily thrown together spotlight pieces on a handful of draft prospects we are most hyped for — hasty does not mean we did not do our homework. We will examine their college careers, strengths, and weakness. What we will not be doing is engaging in in-depth speculation on landing spots or projections. Instead, we will re-examine the fits of top-prospects and their new teams post-draft.

Without further ado, we present to you the first of our draft spotlight series: John Ross III, aka The 4.22-Man, aka Mr. Wish I Had an Island, aka the Snoop Youth Football League Legend — I gave him the first two, the last was provided by the D O double G himself.


College Career

Over the course of his three playing-seasons at the University of Washington, Ross tallied 114 receptions, 1,729 receiving yards, and 22 touchdowns. He added an additional 195 yards and 2 touchdowns from 20 carries on the ground. These numbers are very back heavy.

In 2013 as a freshman, Ross only caught 16 balls for 208 yards, and 1 touchdown. In 2014 as a sophomore, he had 17 receptions, 371 yards, and 4 touchdowns. Ross was sidelined the entire 2015 season with a knee injury — more on this later. Thus, the bulk of John Ross’ college production came in his redshirt-junior season last year, when he was a key-piece in Washington’s College Football Playoff run. In 2016, Ross burned to a 81 reception, 1,150 yard, 17 touchdown line. Ross has always had speed, so why do we see such an enormous jump in production from his freshman to redshirt-junior season?

Chris Petersen and good health — oh and they stopped playing him on defense.

As a true freshman, Ross played all thirteen-games in 2013. Steve Sarkisian, then Washington’s Head Coach was enamored with Ross, but was hesitant to put too much on him too soon. In an effort to not put too much on him too soon, Sarkisian limited Ross at WR — his preferred position. Instead, Sark plugged him in on special teams and as a nickel-corner, because, you know, he was avoiding too much too soon. The main highlight from Ross’ freshman campaign was his 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the Fight Hunger Bowl against UCLA.

2014 brought the end of Steve Sarkisian, who traded the rain of Seattle for the lights, booze, and pills of SoCal, and ushered in the Petersen era in Washington. Ross was poised to shine in Petersen’s offense, but he didn’t — at least not in the new Skip’s first year. As a sophomore, Ross suffered a torn meniscus in his right knee in the third game of the season. He struggled to find consistent playing time on offense, and actually started the Huskie’s final four games at cornerback.

Ross underwent knee surgery in January of 2015 to clean up the meniscus damage he suffered over the course of the previous season. He then suffered a non-contact injury in a spring practice and was forced to sit out the entire season.

In 2016, everything clicked. Ross came back healthy, the Huskies featured him as a WR instead of using him as a Swiss Army Knife, and he shined in Petersen’s offense. In the four years Ross spent at UW, he was underutilized in one, hampered by injuries in two, and went HAM in the last one. His speed will translate to the NFL, there is no doubt about that, but from a fantasy standpoint, will Ross be more of a DeSean Jackson or a Darrius Heyward-Bey?


Strengths

I’m so glad you’re my new neighbor

Speed —

Ross’ speed may be unmatched in the league. Dude should be island-hopping with Sir Nicolas Cage, a proud owner of numerous private-islands, after his 4.22 second 40 at the combine. He, however, failed to read Article IV, provision G(6), sub-clause (i), of adidas' offer, which required him to wear their shoes during the record setting dash and sign an endorsement deal to be eligible for the real estate.

As a WR in college, Ross scored 22 touchdowns on 114 receptions, his speed gave him that home run ability. Blazing speed is more valuable to an offense than just leaving defenders in the dust. It also opens up the underneath routes when CBs play off him at the line, and makes them vulnerable to curl and dig routes, when they turn in anticipation of a race down field. I bet Al Davis is fuming in his grave that he didn’t have a chance to draft this guy.

Explosiveness

Ross compounds his ability to fly with the ability to start and stop, and get up to full-speed in a very short period of time. This makes him very dangerous in the open field and allows him to escape very tight spaces.

Just ask the entire Cal team.

 Why can’t Stanford’s band run out on the field when Cal needs them?

Why can’t Stanford’s band run out on the field when Cal needs them?

Why can’t Stanford’s band run out on the field when Cal needs them?

Or former USC standout-corner Adoree Jackson.

What really impresses me about Ross and his speed is the way he doesn’t sprint everywhere all the time. Instead, he maximizes his weapon by changing gears and setting up defenders. In the gif below, Ross takes a reverse to the house against Arizona. He shifts into fifth-gear just when it appears he is about to be swallowed up in a crowd at the sideline.

 And smaller… That block though.

And smaller… That block though.

Ball Pursuit

I am not going to spend much time here, but in college, Ross flashed skill in tracking the deep ball. He would often have to make in-route adjustments come back on balls that he over-ran (i.e., balls that were underthrown), and he made countless over-shoulder-catches look much simpler than they were.

Weaknesses

Size —

One of the biggest knocks on Ross is his size. At 5'11'’ 188 pounds, Ross is one of the smaller WRs in this years draft. His speed may be for naught, if he can’t beat the press at the line. In college, Ross showed he had a hard time dealing with physical corners due to his size.

Against Alabama, the closest thing to an NFL-caliber defense you can see in college, Ross struggled to get separation or make his mark on the game. He ended with 5 receptions, 28 yards, and a lost fumble.

 Gif size stablilized.

Gif size stablilized.

Another facet of the game where Ross’ size will hurt him is competing with defenders for balls. While Ross has shown he can track a deep ball, even in college he struggled when battling defenders for 50/50 jump balls and contested receptions.

Injury History —

Ross has already suffered major-injuries to both knees, not to mention his offseason shoulder surgery this year to fix a torn labrum. The name Ross = speed, so the knee injuries are the major concern here. He was forced to sit out an entire season in college, but managed to come back faster than ever and besting CJ2K’s record 40 time at the combine.

The main concern is whether his body can hold-up to the punishment that is doled out in the NFL on a weekly basis. Last week, Ross went back to Indianapolis for a medical re-check leading up to the draft.

Outlook

Ross is a first-round talent who may drop on draft boards based on his medical grade. He can provide an immediate spark on any team he lands — just about every team tried to schedule a private-meeting after his combine performance. He boasts a speed that few players may ever match.

We will get into deeper analysis based on who drafts him, but I think Ross’ fantasy value will stem from where he lines up in the NFL. I believe he is best-suited for the slot, where he can utilize his quickness to create space, and his speed to break big plays. I fear that if he is kept-primarily outside, the physicality in the NFL will relegate him to the occasional home-run hitter who can be kept quiet for the majority of the game.

More to come post-draft.

 

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