John Ross was a three-star recruit out of Southern California and played for the Washington Huskies for four seasons. While many saw him as a potential first round pick in the upcoming draft, he gained national attention by setting the 40-yard dash record in the NFL Combine with a blazing 4.22 second time.
Elite speed and great ball tracking are the cornerstone of his game skills; based on his size I think he should start his career as a slot receiver. He would be able to work underneath while having protection off the line of scrimmage in order to take the top off of defenses with his speed.
In his first two seasons with the Huskies, he showed the athleticism to play on both sides of the field as a wide receiver and as a cornerback. Before the 2015 season, he tore his ACL in his left knee and redshirted for the season. As a redshirt junior, he gained over 1,100 receiving yards while catching 17 touchdowns. He was also an impact kick returner.
At Washington, Ross lined up as a slot receiver and split outside. His speed was used all over the field on screens, reverses, and he ran a full route tree. The Huskies loved using him to vertically stretch the defense running go routes, fades, and posts, attacking the downfield safeties — Passes were almost always underthrown based on his pure speed down the middle of the field. In addition to the main three deep routes, he can also run double moves with quick footwork stressing the safeties. He does a great of turning their hips away from his intended path to break past them.
As a receiver he is inconsistent at catching the football with his hands. He doesn’t drop many passes, but he tends to body catch the football. This could allow NFL defensive backs to break up the pass before he can fully secure it. Additionally, with a small hand size at 8-3/4 inches, he is in the bottom 10 percentile for receivers which leads to double-catching the football.
From a pro comparison standpoint, Brandin Cooks from the New Orleans Saints and now the New England Patriots fits him the best. Both have blazing speeds with good tracking ability. Both receivers have the ability to sink their hips into their breaks with vision and creativity to gain yards after the catch. Both had issues with double catches and vulnerability to jams and physical play at the line of scrimmage to get bumped off their route.
Some have compared him to DeSean Jackson who is an elite ball tracker. Out of all the speed receivers to come out of college in the past few years, I think Ross is the closest to warrant the comparison but I still believe Cooks is more apt.
Personally, I gave Ross a late first round grade. His speed and tracking ability will be an immediate asset to any offense that are struggling to create downfield plays. While the Seattle Seahawks have a similar receiver in Tyler Lockett, teams like the Tennessee Titans, Philadelphia Eagles, or the Washington Redskins could be a good fit for his skill set.