Justyn Ross - WR - Clemson
Welcome to the rookie profile for Justyn Ross. Ross out of Clemson was extremely productive right out of the gates as a freshman and sophomore. Unfortunately, he suffered a series issue with his neck and spine that sidelined him for the entire 2020 season. He made his return for the 2021 season but was not nearly as productive as his first two seasons with the Clemson Tigers. But that decline can’t be fully attributed to Ross’ performance on the field as the entire offense took a step back with Trevor Lawrence no longer leading the team as quarterback.
Height: 6′ 4″
Weight: 205 lbs
40-yard dash: 4.64s
3-cone drill: DNP
20-yard shuttle: DNP
Vertical Jump: 31.5″
Broad Jump: 116″
Bench Press: 11
Justyn Ross graduated high school in 2018 with plenty of offers from major colleges such as Alabama, Auburn, Florida, and Clemson. As a four-star recruit and the 7th overall wide receiver per 247 composite rankings, Ross signed his offer letter with the Clemson Tigers. As a true freshman, Ross would go on to lead Clemson in receiving yards catching 46 of his 75 targets for 1000 yards over a fourteen-game season that would end in a National Championship. He had an explosive 21.7 yards per reception. Justyn Ross and Tee Higgins became a scary wide receiver duo with both players standing at 6’4”.
Both Higgins and Ross continued their dominance in 2019, but this time Higgins was the wide receiver that went over 1000 yards. Ross accumulated more targets and receptions, 98 and 66 respectively, but fewer yards with 865 (13.1 yards per reception). It was still a very impressive season for Ross that ended a game short of winning back-to-back National Championship. Due to a congenital fusion condition in his neck and spine, he had to have surgery during the offseason before the 2020 season. That surgery led to him missing the entire season and being granted a medical redshirt for the year.
Clemson took a bigger step back from recent success than many expected. While Ross still led the team in both receptions and yards his 47 receptions and 524 yards were equal to or lower than his true freshman season. There was an obvious drop-off in quarterback play between Trevor Lawrence and DJ Uiagalelei. Potentially that was due to a lack of chemistry that Ross and Lawrence had, but it never seemed that Ross and Uiagalelei clicked throughout the season. Even though statistically Ross declined in 2021, he flashed the same traits that made him a legitimate NFL Prospect and top-tier wide receiver throughout the college landscape from 2018-to 19. Additionally, the Tigers’ running game didn’t get off the ground until late in the season, causing the team to be overly one-dimensional. The team went 10-3 on the season, a surprising low when looking at Clemson’s recent success. After the conclusion of the season, Justyn Ross decided to forgo his final year and declare for the NFL Draft.
Justyn Ross has incredible hands, seemingly able to catch anything that comes within his massive catch radius. Standing at 6’4”, Ross has the wingspan to match. He displayed over and over again on tape the ability to go up and get the ball over defenders. He’ll be a quarterback’s best friend with the ability to give the quarterback a target a covering defensive back won’t be able to guard. Additionally, he has great body control, making acrobatic catches with defenders draped over him or on the sidelines. He maintains excellent concentration, rarely dropping a catchable ball.
Ross is an average route runner with a solid understanding of how to gain and utilize leverage. With his frame, leverage will be his best friend at the next level. Generally, he doesn’t create a lot of separation, but he only needs a little bit of space with his large frame and catch radius. Additionally, he uses his physicality well at the line of scrimmage to efficiently fight off press coverage. When the ball isn’t going his way, he is a great blocker for his teammates, consistently using his physicality in that phase of the game.
At Ross’ size, it’s rare to find great route runners. Ross absolutely has room to improve in this area, becoming crisper in his breaks and more fluid within his routes. When he gets into the open field, he doesn’t have the acceleration or open-field speed to create a lot of yards after the catch. His explosive plays will come from downfield contested catches more often than not. In open-field situations and manufactured touches, Ross will follow his blockers and fall forward but not much more than that.
An additional concern is the fact that Justyn Ross consistently declined every year at Clemson. He started red hot his freshman year, but despite the increase in volume, he saw a decrease in production his sophomore year. Then his redshirt junior year he saw an even larger decrease. Although there is a legitimate argument that his final season, the entire offense took a significant step back from the previous years of Ross’ career. In 2018 and 2019, Clemson averaged 275+ passing yards per game and 240+ rushing yards per game to 191 passing yards per game and 170 rushing yards per game in 2021. Hard to imagine Ross succeeding more than he did in said situation.
Pre Draft Analysis
Expected Draft Capital- Round 3
Justyn Ross doesn’t possess the electric open-field speed or separation that the NFL covets nowadays. He is a big, outside wide receiver that the NFL used to drool over just a few years ago. There is still a place for him in today’s NFL schemes and he could be a great fit for some teams. He has high-end WR2 upside in fantasy in the right situation if we can see him flash what he did throughout his Clemson career. If the Philadelphia Eagles don’t address wide receiver in the first round, he could be a great compliment to DeVonta Smith and provide a massive target for the not-always-so-accurate quarterback, Jalen Hurts. The Lions could also be a great fit. He would compliment Amon-Ra St. Brown who would work the middle of the field while Ross lined up out wide. The two alongside Swift and Hockenson could continue to develop around Jared Goff, or for the quarterback, they draft in the first round in this year’s draft or next year’s draft.
Post Draft Analysis
Kansas City Chiefs- UDFA
Following the departure of Tyreek Hill, the Kansas City Chiefs have tried to backfill his presence with a wide receiver by committee approach. They have brought in JuJu Smith-Schuster in free agency and then drafted Skyy Moore in the second round. Additionally, they bring in Justyn Ross as an undrafted free agent who would’ve undoubtedly been drafted in the NFL Draft without the injury concerns. The concerns with his previous neck injury are concerning enough that many teams took him off their draft board completely and believe that he shouldn’t be playing football. This is despite playing his final season at Clemson post neck injury and many reports saying he is no more at risk of severe injury than any other football player. It’s hard to be certain in regards to Ross’ previous injury, but fans and organizations can only hope for his health. From a pure football perspective, Ross provides a skill set that not many others on the roster provide and has a very high upside based on his early college career.
Again, from a pure football perspective, Ross has minimal long-term competition in front of him. There are a lot of high hopes for Skyy Moore and he is more likely than not to be a mainstay of the offense for some time. Mecole Hardman and Marquez Valdes-Scantling have struggled to contribute significantly over their careers, JuJu Smith-Schuster is still only on a one-year deal, and Josh Gordon isn’t the Josh Gordon of old. There’s an opportunity in front of Ross if he is capable of taking it, and fantasy managers will know very soon whether Ross is worth a stash or should be dropped. In dynasty leagues, he’s a late-round flier in the fourth round or later, a pure dart throw. In redraft, he should be avoided barring significant news in training camps that he is going to earn a starting role either due to injury or performance.