John Ross, University of Washington
Height: 5’ 10 3/8”
Weight: 188 lbs
Hands: 8 3/4”
Arm: 31 1/2”
40 yard dash: 4.22 (official) (!!!)
NFL Comparison: DeSean Jackson, Santana Moss, Ty Hilton, Malcolm Mitchell, Odell Beckham
-excellent body control
-dynamic lateral agility
-nose for the endzone
-doesn’t always highpoint the ball
-not great with contested catches
-history of frequent injury (fairly major concern)
-incomplete route runner
Trashman’s Take: If you aren’t familiar with the name John Ross by now, you’ve either been on a remote island, one that is not owned by Ross, or you’re a bewildered extraterrestrial, unfamiliar with our strange manners and customs – to whom I say welcome to our planet, you’ve caught us at a bad time. Otherwise, you’re well aware of who John Ross is and how he recently broke the record for the 40 yard dash (previously held by Chris Johnson for nine years) by 2 one-hundredths of a second (4.22 sec) at the 2017 NFL Combine. Yes, I’m aware that there are rumors that Bo Jackson ran a 4.12, but that wasn’t official, so I’ll leave it as just another legend in his extensive mythology.
With that record, Ross has vaulted into the forefronts of our collective minds and likely the first round of the NFL draft. A player who accomplishes a feat of that magnitude is probably well-worth taking a chance on that early, simply due to the fact that he would fill seats for any team who drafted him, but is he really anything more than a fleet-footed freak show, the equivalent of a bearded-lady at a sideshow carnival?
Well, yes, in short.
Ross has the potential to develop into a key weapon for any NFL franchise, and it’s not simply due to his otherworldly straight-line speed. It’s one thing to be able to throttle a McLaren F1 up to 200+ mph, it’s an entirely different endeavor to effectively maneuver one through a moving obstacle course, and that’s what Ross is able to do on the football field. He’s masterfully elusive after the catch, changing course in an instant and re-accelerating back up to breakneck rapidity.
Ross sees the field from a big-picture perspective (one of Tyreek Hill’s underrated greatest attributes), so much so that on some of his longer runs he seems to be able plan his moves a few defenders ahead – breaking ankles and making would-be tacklers miss all the way. Improvisation comes naturally to him, but it doesn’t mitigate not being a fully sound route runner, which Ross will have to be to stay on the field with any regularity at the next level.
What I really appreciate about Ross, aside from the speed is his ability to be effective in the redzone, despite his slight frame and average height. Few players can execute an endzone fade like this guy, and it shows. He had 18 TDs in 2016, and 11 of them came on pass plays less than 20 yards. It’s a good thing that Ross can track the ball so well because he’s not going to go up and win contested catches like some more physical receivers in this draft. Ross avoids contact where possible, so I also question his tenacity as a blocker – you don’t draft Ross to block though.
Fantasy Outlook: Ross was used all over the field in college, playing outside as well as inside, maintaining productivity both ways, and he’s a monster of a kick returner, so the one trick pony allusions don’t hold water for me. I don’t see him strictly as a situational speedy deep threat in the mode of a Marquise Goodwin or the like. That being said, his 40 time will almost certainly land him in the first round, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he is one of the first receivers to get picked up, due to the fact that though there is a slew of talent this year, there are few slam dunks. He’s going to have to toughen up a bit, and learn how to hone his routes, but Ross can be a game changer in the right hands. He’s got the right attitude and all the intangibles a team could ever ask for, so he can make an impact right away. I’m bullish on taking him early and often in dynasty leagues.
Quotable from the Combine
Q. How did you use your speed to be a top receiver?
A. I just think it is all in the work throughout the week the preparation. I was gifted with speed. So I just used it the best I can.
Q. Besides the pure speed, what do you want to be best known for as a receiver?
A. Just not being one-dimensional. A guy who can move around. Play different [wide receiver] positions. Play everything being explosive, really. I don’t want to be known as just a guy who can go deep. I want to be able to do a lot of things in my game.
Q. You are always compared with DeSean Jackson and Brandin Cooks. I know you have a relationship with DeSean. What are some of the things you have been able to gather from “DJax?”
A. Basically how to use my speed. When to turn it on, when to turn it off. Growing up, I ever had anyone to monitor with me on that. I just was basically running out there. I was so gifted with speed; I just used that versus a lot of people. As you get older, a lot of people get faster and a lot of people get smarter. You just can’t run past everybody. People’s techniques change and everyone gets better
Q. Can you break Chris Johnson’s record here in the 40?
A. I’m going to try. I am going to try. I don’t want to say too much. I’m going to try. I’m going to give it my best.
Q. Have you talked to DeSean Jackson about preparing for this weekend?
A. Yeah. I was just with DeSean last week. He is basically telling me to have fun. Relax and calm down and be yourself.
Q. Your medicals, I am sure they tested your knees?
A. Yeah, they are good. Knees are stable. Didn’t hear anything negative back about my knees. Everything went good as I expected.
Q. What was the transition from being a big time kick returner to being a big time receiver?
A. Just not wanting to have that label on myself. Not wanting to be that guy who can just return kicks. I didn’t want to be known for that. I want to be known for more than just being a deep threat. I want to be more than a guy who can just return kicks. I want to be a more complete receiver for a team.
Q. How did you get to that point?
A. Just the confidence level and the help of the coaches. That confidence level, film, and me working on my craft every day.
Q. When are you having surgery on your shoulder?
A. March 14.
Q. Why are you here when you have to have surgery so soon?
A. Because I wanted to compete. I wanted to come here and enjoy this process. Not everyone can do this. Just thankful and blessed to have this opportunity. I wanted to come out and compete versus the other guys.
Q. How long is the recovery?
A. I am not sure, actually. I have pre-op coming soon. So I won’t know all the details.
Q. Have heard it is around four or five or six months?
A. Yeah, it is around that time, I know that for sure.
Q. That puts you a little up against it to make the season.
A. No, no. I will be fine for the season. Will definitely be fine.
Q. Working with DeSean Jackson, how did that help you with your development?
A. It helped a lot because he showed me how to control my speed, how to calm down and just relax and have fun. Before, I just figured, I am faster than this guy, I can just outrun this guy. All the time, that don’t work. For example, if you are going up against a great corner like [teammates] Sidney Jones or Kevin King, those guys will defeat the speed with good technique. It was good for me to get into with DeSean and learn how to use it and when to use it and when to turn it on and when to turn it off.
Q. Are there any other NFL receivers you try to emulate?
A. Brandin Cooks, T.Y. Hilton, guys like that.
Q. What is it you like about Cooks?
A. His explosiveness. His deep threat ability, catch-and-go. Everything about him is great.
Q. Do you know him?
A. I do know Brandin. He was my host when I visited Oregon State.
Q. You went up against Sidney Jones in practice?
A. Yeah, I went up against him a lot. One-on-ones, team periods, a lot.
Q. He is known to be pretty physical. How did you do going up against him?
A. He is pretty physical. We work on a lot of press coverages and releases. It is kind of hard going against each other because we know both of our tendencies. We both got each other real good.
Q. What do you expect to run under tomorrow?
A. Under 4.3. That’s what I plan to run.
Q. You have been doing that in training?
Q. How do the knees feel?
A. Really good. No problems. Really good. No problems.
Q. How did you meet DeSean Jackson?
A. DeSean is from Long Beach (Ross’ hometown). We are from the same area and have mutual friends.
Q. Have you stayed in touch with Brandin Cooks at all?
A. I talked to Brandin about two weeks ago.
Q. What about?
A. Just to ask how he is doing. You know, just to keep in touch. You know, it is always good to keep in touch with good people.
Q. When people make that comparison of you to Brandin Cooks, do you see the similarities?
A. Definitely, with the explosion piece. Like I said earlier, the catch-and-go. When he has the ball in his face and stuff like that.
Q. What do you think about the draft evaluators? They don’t seem to want to pick guys who are not six-feet tall high. How do you explain your value to a team in that position?
A. You just look at the history. We have a lot of great guys who set great examples like Brandin Cooks, DeSean, T.Y. Hilton, Emmanuel Sanders. Those guys are not six-foot tall and they are very productive. Antonio Brown. He is now the highest paid receiver in the league and he is not six-foot. Guys that came before us who have set a great example why [their success] should transfer to guys like me, guys who are not as tall.
Q. What are the toughest questions you get asked from coaches?
A. What are my strengths and weaknesses.
Q. When you meet with NFL teams, what do they say you need to work on?
A. Probably physicality. Being a little more physical. It’s not poor, but it is always that you can always work on it.
Q. When you are asked about your strengths and weaknesses, how do you respond?
A. Speed is definitely a strength (laughs). And my weakness is probably physicality. Just knowing when to be physical, how to be physical because there will be a lot of guys who are going to see me as a smaller guy so they are going to want to press me.
Q. What makes you so successful with all the touchdown catches you had last year
A. I think versatility, being able to play more than one position on offense and to move around and get open.
Q. Do you see any similarities between you and Antonio Brown?
A. As far as versatility, yes. I feel if I can keep working, I can get up to that ability. I can do some of the same things he can do. We’re about the same height and explosiveness.
Q. What is the next evolution of your game?
A. Football IQ. I have to be able to know how to read deep coverages. I have to be smart and basically work on my craft every single day to get better, continue to get better. Those guys (in the NFL) they know what is going on. They are smarter in the league and everything.
Q. Is being physical a problem for you?
A. No, because I was getting stronger. I played this season with a messed up shoulder. I will get stronger and continue to keep working.
Q. Washington had a pretty good secondary. How much did that help you to go up against guys like that in practice?
A. I think it prepared all of our receivers so when we got into a game, there wasn’t too much to worry about. We felt like we were already seeing the best. So, I think it prepared us very well versus everyone we saw.
Q. Your knee injuries, did that stunt your growth as a receiver or slow you down at all?
A. It actually made me stronger. My knees are stable.