In just over four seconds, John Ross likely earned himself millions. He went from “a” deep threat in this class to “the” deep threat, and might have solidified a place in the first round of tonight’s NFL draft. But if he did, he doesn’t only have his performance in Indianapolis to thank. He shone at Washington in his college career, and showing off his lightning speed only enforced that he has what it takes to perform in the NFL.
Let’s examine the dynasty value of John Ross. How will he fit in at the next level?
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Statistics from sports-reference.com.
Ross started a little slow, but by year two had established himself as deep threat. We wouldn’t expect him to maintain a 21.8 yards per reception average with a larger sample size than 17 catches, but we saw glimpses of what he could become. Three of his four scores in 2014 through the air came on receptions of 55-plus yards, and he even added 96 and 100-yard kickoff return touchdowns.
Unfortunately, Washington fans had to be patient to see his true potential. He suffered a knee injury before the start of his much-anticipated 2015 and missed the entire year.
The 2016 season was when it all happened for him, as he racked up a whopping 17 touchdowns on 81 catches (a score for every 4.76 receptions). He showed off his capability as a deep threat, but also caught at least four balls in 13 of 14 games and at least one touchdown in ten. It was a rarity that he wasn’t a difference-maker in a game.
What didn’t show up above was the outstanding impact he had in the return game. In 2014, his 938 return yards led NCAA football, and he was still doing it in his final year. While it won’t help your dynasty squads, this could lend a hand in getting him involved early for the NFL team who drafts him.
Metrics and Measurables
How did the numbers he put up compare to his competitors? Player Profiler gives some context on college production.
The dominator rating is just ‘okay’, and while the breakout age is good, Ross gained a good chunk of yardage on a weak offense whose top receiver only managed a 50-765-4 line in 2013, and 60-617-4 in 2014. The college YPR score is misleading in this case, as it uses the average of his best season (21.8) and his most recent (14.2). As I mentioned above, the 21.8 score comes on such a small sample size that it shouldn’t be treated with equal weight. For what it’s worth, his YPR average over the 2014 and 2016 seasons combined was 15.5.
One thing the profile does give us is our first insight into how outstanding Ross’ combine performance was. His Mock Draftable spider graph shows us that also, and compares those measurables to other players.
With the two tools, we can see how explosively Ross performed at the combine. While the 40 yard dash time got the headlines, his performance in the each jump was incredible, and speaks to the spring in his step and “bounciness” he plays with. However while the athleticism was the focus, there are some things he can’t control and can’t improve upon – and those are where he falls short (literally). He’s in the lower percentiles for height, weight, hand size and arm length.
We’ve seen Corey Coleman and Mike Wallace comparisons, but it’s DeSean Jackson who’s name is most associated with the speedster. Every year, someone seems to be “the next DeSean Jackson”. He’s the premier deep threat in the league and has been for several years, but why has he lasted? It’s because he offers so much more than just speed – and knows exactly how to use his. Not only does Ross share this ability (obviously no where near Jackson’s level right now), but the new Tampa Bay Buccaneer has seemingly taken the rookie wideout under his wing. If he can have any influence on honing Ross’ skills, it’ll have a huge impact on the on-field performance dynasty value of the youngster.
On the Field
Importantly, we should be concerned with how all of his measured athleticism translated to the field during his time as a Husky. You could put Ashton Eaton in amongst NFL prospects and he’d look like a first round pick in shorts, but we need to be concerned with how these kids play football.
John Ross is not simply a deep threat. There are many traits to love about his game. Firstly, it’s essential for smaller players not to “play small”. Ross might be light, but he fights. He may be short, but he leaps for the ball. While he protects himself as a runner (which is smart for someone of his stature), he doesn’t completely avoid contact. These can be clear red flags for players like him, but Ross measures up in these areas.
Unlike Jackson, Ross doesn’t have a completely refined ability to control his speed, but he’s getting there. He’s better at shaking, juking and changing direction than using various levels of straight line speed to his advantage. For many young players, that comes with practice and experience. One area he does stand out is his acceleration at the end of a play. It’s a trait I’ve always associated with Jackson, and Ross displays it naturally. As the ball is in the air and seems out of reach (and is to most defenders), Ross will make up the extra half yard to secure the catch. While many receivers either don’t have the burst, or leave their feet to attempt a diving catch, Ross’ 4.22 speed will make his quarterback look good.
Another important part of succeeding as a deep threat in the NFL is the concentration and focus to track the ball. Ross is off the charts in this area. His 2016 outing against Oregon provided us with multiple examples of this skill, and is well worth a watch.
Not on display here was his open-field ability, but it’s not only on kickoffs when Ross turns into a returner. One play that encapsulated why offensive evaluators will be salivating over Ross was this long touchdown against Cal last season:
First, he beats his man deep. Next, he adjusts to an underthrown ball, and not only comes back to get it but knows where the defenders are when he does. When the ball is in his hands, he goes into return mode, shaking and baking on the way to the end zone. His athleticism is clear, and he even started three games at corner and recorded a pick in 2014. His highlight video provides more examples of his big-play ability.
How do we approach him in dynasty leagues? Right now, he’s sitting at eighth among rookies in startup ADP and holds the same position for our rankers.
Much will depend on his draft position. NFL Network’s Mike Mayock last week reported that some teams have removed Ross from their boards because of his injury history. Even today, fellow NFL Networker Ian Rapoport echoed the same sentiment by saying “the medical report on Ross has scared teams” and while he’s off some boards, teams wonder if he’ll fall out of the first round.
I’d be willing to bet the team who drafts him is convinced he’s fully healthy if they are spending a first or second round pick on him. That means even if it’s in the second round, I’ll be treating him based on talent, and he’s certainly worth a first round dynasty pick. At this point, I won’t feel comfortable moving him into the top half of rookie drafts, but he’s good value towards the end of the first. Keep a close eye on reports concerning his health, but he could become a steal the further he falls.
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