2017 NFL Draft Player Profiles: Washington WR John Ross

From now until the 2017 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to showcase as many prospects as possible and examine both their strengths and weaknesses. Most of these profiles will feature individuals that the Pittsburgh Steelers are likely to have an interest in, while a few others will be top-ranked players. If there is a player you would like us to analyze, let us know in the comments below.

John Ross/WR Washington – 5’10/6 188

The Good

– Incredible, Combine record setting straight line speed (4.22 40)
– Quick-twitch player and a strong route runner, ability to drop his hips on underneath routes and bursts away at the top of his route to create space
– Shows potential to have an elite release off the line, nuanced route runner who sells initial stem with whole body, rare eye manipulation and stresses CB’s discipline and technique
– Great short-area quickness, fast feet and change of direction ability
– Quick to the tuck after the catch, YAC threat with elusiveness and straight line speed, will wreck DB’s angles in space
– Will be able to create yardage in the quick game (screens, slants, swings)
– Tougher to bring down than you’d expect, has surprising contact balance and difficult for defenders to line up and get a good shot/tackle on
– Shows some versatility on offense, has slot experience in 3×1 sets and use as a gadget player on sweeps/swings out of the backfield
– Gives surprisingly good effort as a blocker, team player and has a chip on his shoulder
– Experience running most of the route tree
– Kick return experience/value
– High level of production in final season, one of the most dominant players in college football

The Bad

– Thin frame who will have predictable questions about size, below average hand size (8 3/4)
– Can get beat up in press coverage due to size and functional strength
– Perhaps too much wasted motion off the line, needs to be more decisive and gain ground quicker than running his feet to break the corner’s jock
– Didn’t see much evidence of hand use to beat press, preferred to win with feet and shoulder dips
– Occasional dropped pass
– Effort is there but will have trouble stalk blocking bigger cornerbacks
– History of knee injuries and medical is extremely important


– One year as full time starting WR
– Career: 114 receptions 1729 yards 22 TDs
– 2016: 81 catches 1150 yards and 17 TDs
– 24.1 career kick return average, 4 touchdowns
– Spent first two years playing cornerback in addition to receiver, made four starts in 2014 and has one career interception
– Tore meniscus in right knee early in 2014, gutted out the rest of the season but needed microfracture surgery after the year
– Tore meniscus and ACL in left knee spring of 2015, redshirted and missed the entire season
– Kick/punt returner in high school, six total touchdowns junior season

Tape Breakdown

If you even have remote interest in the Combine, or have a Twitter account, or are a fan of private islands, you’re well aware of who John Ross is. He turned in the Combine’s fastest 40 ever, a 4.22, this past weekend. It’s a surprise to see anyone break the record just for how lofty the goal was but Ross’ speed was never in question.

But honestly, I don’t even think it’s his most impressive trait. Which is a crazy thing to say because the speed, objectively, is the best the league has seen. His ability to separate and win off the line, when it all comes together for me, is amazing. It’s hard to even describe what he does to corners. Here’s maybe the best example against USC, a play you may have already seen.

This wasn’t against some wide-eyed freshmen either. That corner was Adoree Jackson, a second round pick in this year’s draft. It’s hard to find a play of more dominance at the position than that.

And that’s not the only time he does that to corners. Wasn’t a one-off thing. He is a quick-twitch route runner who sells the stem of his route off the line with his whole body. Shake to the inside on this fade route, creating space on the corner, and finishing the play.

It’s how small receivers get to play big on the goal line.

We talk about eye manipulation for quarterbacks, moving safeties with their vision, but the same applies for receivers too. Watch him look inside like he’s going to run a slant before breaking outside, snapping his head, and creating space.

Despite being a small, thinly built guy, he’s elusive and difficult to bring down. Someone who can win vertically but also in the quick game, getting him in space and allowing him to weave through traffic and bounce off defenders.

It shouldn’t be any surprise that a thinly built guy like him can struggle against press. When it all comes together, it looks good, but corners can get into the framework of his body and knock him off balance. That’s what we see here at the top of your screen.

I don’t have any examples here but Ross can get too cute trying to win off the line, pumping his feet but not going anywhere. Want him to make his move quicker as to not throw off the timing of the route. It’s fixable and relatively minor but something a receivers coach will work with him in. And why wouldn’t he? Ross is one of the most explosive players in this draft.

He’d be a great fit in Pittsburgh. I’d put him in the slot against typically smaller corners who won’t beat him up and get him stacked and off ball to give him space. With him, AB, Bell, and hopefully Bryant, it’d be the best offense in the league. My personal Fast Times at Ridgemont High Linda Barrett fantasy. Too bad that 40 time is definitely going to take him off the board before 30 and even before he ran it, those odds looked pretty unlikely.

Ross is almost certain to wind up as my #1 receiver, definitely ahead of Mike Williams and probably ahead of Corey Davis.

Projection: Top 20

Games Watched: at Oregon, vs USC, vs Colorado, vs Alabama

Previous 2017 NFL Draft Player Profiles
Deshaun WatsonHaason ReddickMarshon LattimoreCorey ClementTim Williams
Jourdan LewisTakkarist McKinleyBrad KaayaNathan PetermanO.J. Howard
Charles HarrisAlvin KamaraTyus BowserDavid NjokuDeMarcus Walker
Chidobe AwuzieDeShone KizerMarlon MackCameron SuttonZach Cunningham
Corey DavisCarl LawsonPatrick MahomesKareem HuntEvan Engram
Derek RiversRyan AndersonJoshua DobbsJordan LeggettSamaje Perine
Corn ElderBucky HodgesJames ConnerCooper KuppStanley Williams
Fred RossJamaal WilliamsGeorge KittleEjuan PriceChris Wormley
Jeremy McNicholsJoe MathisDerek BarnettAmba Etta-TawoGareon Conley
Taco Charlton Elijah McGuireRyan SwitzerTanoh KpassagnonTre’Davious White
Brian HillMatthew DayesDonnel PumphreyJosh ReynoldsNazair Jones
De’Veon SmithDavis WebbObi MelifonwuTJ Watt

About the Author

Alex Kozora
Full-time blogger from mom's basement. Marrying tape and statistics. Chidi Iwuoma is my favorite Steeler of all-time.
  • Brian Tollini

    No doubt best receiver in this class.

  • ND_Steel

    Guy has one speed…turbo….

  • Spencer Krick

    If he’s there at 30, pinch yourself to make sure you’re not dreaming, then sprint up to the podium. Brown/Bryant outside, Ross in the slot, Bell in the Backfield: Good luck.

  • Steelers12

    He will be gone at 30

  • NinjaMountie

    I think Alex agrees as that’s why he said he’s a top 20 pick. 🙂

  • Darth Blount 47

    I like this kid a lot. I really do. I like him a little better than Mike Williams and have him as the 2nd best in this class.

    But anyone who says that John Ross is a better WR than Corey Davis, is sniffing glue in the corner, IMO.
    As we all know, WR’s have a MYRIAD of responsibilities. And the great ones are ones that can check off a plethora of the boxes. It’s actually one of those things that I think people subliminally think of when they see Antonio Brown and wonder how and why he is so darn good. When you have guys like Julio Jones out there who are freak specimens like Terrell Owens was, and you think about the great ones of the past, it’s hard to understand the template for greatness.
    Jerry. Randy. Tim. Cris. Marvin. Larry. Isaac. Reggie. Art. Lynn. Calvin. Torry. Hines.

    Half of those guys are freaks and the other half look like just dudes. So I get that looks can be deceiving. And if you buy in to that mentality, and it’s certainly fair to, then you can see how a guy built like Ross, could still end up being a great. But Corey Davis has that LOOK of greatness. Size, speed, strength, production. The total package. Some say his hands aren’t the greatest or that he seems a little lazy and can take a play or two off. But I look at those numbers and just look right past all that. Maybe I should, maybe I shouldn’t. I do know as a 4 year starter, he doesn’t have any of those injury concerns that you HAVE to have with both Ross especially, and Mike Williams.

    People are now treating John Ross like he is closer to being a guarantee, based simply off of that straight line speed. (Not saying that is his only attribute, far from it, but it is why people are calling him a mid 1st round pick now where he used to be a pretty recognized 2nd rounder)

    I think of Tommy Boy…

    Tommy: Let’s think about this for a sec, Ted. Why would somebody put a guarantee on a box? Hmmm, very interesting.
    Ted Nelson, Customer: Go on, I’m listening.

    Tommy: Here’s the way I see it, Ted. Guy puts a fancy guarantee on a box ’cause he wants you to feel all warm and toasty inside.
    Ted Nelson, Customer: Yeah, makes a man feel good.
    Tommy: ‘Course it does. Why shouldn’t it? Ya figure you put that little box under your pillow at night, the Guarantee Fairy might come by and leave a quarter, am I right, Ted?
    Ted Nelson, Customer: What’s your point?
    Tommy: The point is, how do you know the fairy isn’t a crazy glue sniffer? “Building model airplanes” says the little fairy; well, we’re not buying it. He sneaks into your house once, that’s all it takes. The next thing you know, there’s money missing off the dresser, and your daughter’s knocked up. I’ve seen it a hundred times…

    Ted Nelson, Customer: But why do they put a guarantee on the box?
    Tommy: Because they know all they sold ya was a guaranteed piece of crud. That’s all it is, isn’t it? Hey, if you want me to take a dump in a box and mark it guaranteed, I will. I got spare time. But for now, for your customer’s sake, for your daughter’s sake, ya might wanna think about buying a quality product from me.

  • WreckIess

    When can we expect a post combine mock Alex?

  • Applebite

    He won’t even make it to #15 with that speed. You look at the Top 15 teams in the first round, I can easily see 6 of them taking a WR with their first pick. Anyone here think the Saints wouldn’t want a John Ross with their pick? The Chargers? He won’t make it to #15. I’m almost inclined to say Alex wasted his time writing this up, but we’ve seen some strange things happen during the draft…I just don’t expect Ross falling past #15 to be one of them, at all. Not with that speed. Nope.

  • Boots

    He’s having shoulder surgery in a few weeks to repair a torn labrum which means there’s a good chance he’s not ready for camp.

  • Rusted Out

    Not a chance in he!! he makes it to #30. For a guy that just destroyed the all time 40 yard dash record, I’d be blown away if he made it out of the top 10. If by for some reason he falls (surgery maybe) and he’s there at 30, I can see Colbert putting up his best 40 time to the podium.

  • Brian Tollini

    Count me as the one sniffing glue in the corner. Nothing against Corey Davis though. My only concern with Ross is medical.

  • TrappenWeisseGuy ;

    He’ll be gone,and can undoubtedly gain at least some weight, but his body just might not be suited for football.

  • Darth Blount 47

    My best friend in the whole world used to eat Elmer’s glue like it was fluff marshmallow, so I say… to each their own. Lol.

  • Spencer Krick

    +1 for the Tommy Boy reference.

  • Applebite

    Colbert would edge out Ross’s time by 3/10ths, no questions asked.

  • Brian Tollini

    Never tried it, but now I am intrigued.

  • thomas hmmmm

    Here is a wild guess!!!

    Seeing how the Browns drafted I think 6 receivers, they will go out on a limb and draft this guy 1st overall.. Then draft 3 more receivers later in the draft.

  • LucasY59

    I think the reason they interviewed him at the combine was for that reason, they dont expect to have a chance at him, but if he was available they would know enough about him to make a decision on whether to pick him or not (and since he is a big time playmaker the answer is they probably take him as the BPA, and try to outscore everyone on the way to the SB)

  • Shane Mitchell

    Hmm, looking at the trade chart one of our third round picks could get us up to somewhere around pick 22-24.

  • LucasY59

    minor clean up surgery, maybe ready in as soon as 4-6 weeks, which makes him ready right after the draft, but no longer than 3 months which means he is there for camp, not as big of a deal as McKinley who has a fracture in the joint and will need 4-6 months

  • PaeperCup

    Exciting….I thought he was all speed, thanks for the profile to show he’s much more than that.

    Probably the only reason he’s not the top rated WR is because he’s only 5’10”

  • PaeperCup

    I have heard this line about a dozen times for a dozen different players lol. I think it’ just shows how good this draft is at almost every position.

  • Shane Mitchell

    Nice job on the profile Alex! The best John Ross profile on the web.

  • Spencer Krick

    Very true!

  • popsiclesticks

    He’s basically Corey Coleman. I think Coleman was a more polished WR but this guy is even a level above him athletically.

  • Alex Kozora

    Ha, Ross’ speed is enticing but like the report outlines, there’s so much more to his game. He’s not just a fast, straight line guy like 100 different dudes in this class. He’s a dynamic guy who can get open. Davis is similar but not quite at that level.

    I need to really watch Davis for myself, which is why I was cautious guaranteeing Ross would be my #1 guy, but he’s set the bar high.

    *sniff sniff*

  • Alex Kozora

    Probably Monday. Focusing on FA these next couple of days and I need some time to try to go through tape of Combine guys who impressed.

  • Alex Kozora

    Appreciate it Shane!

  • PaeperCup

    Scary thought, what if Ravens got this guy. With Flaccos arm and Ross’ speed, that can be dangerous.

  • Darth Blount 47

    Hey now, the Corey Davis wagon is already full. You stay over there on the Ross Train. 😉

    But yeah, I had to say in my comment that I know that speed isn’t his only attribute, far from it, since I too like him a whole lot. Many sites still have Mike W as the number 1 WR… But like you, I like Ross better. But unlike you, *so far* … I think Davis is actually quite superior in many ways to both of them.
    Crazy glue sniffers…..

    Said it before on his profile breakdown page and I’ll say it again… “Davis is one of the best WR prospects to come out of college that I’ve seen in a while.”

  • Dshoff

    I was really intrigued with Tavon Austin and all his speed, but he didn’t really turn out as great as I thought he would.

  • Dan

    Surely somebody in the top 29 picks will be too enamored with that 40 time to pass him up, but if he does fall to us, I’d almost not want to take him because of the Dri memories. Maybe that’s wrong to think that way, but it’s all that would be in my head. Plus, if the talent is there, I’d rather stick to D positions in the top couple picks.

  • jconeoone C

    I would take this guy for sure in a heart beat if available. As would I take corey davis. …But am I the only one that thinks Mike Williams will have the better NFL career?

  • Sam Clonch

    Dri (and Chris Rainey too for that matter) wasn’t really a receiver, wasn’t really a RB. Guys without positions that they had to try and get cute with to get them the ball. Ross on the other hand is a pure receiver, who can occasionally run a sweep. That’s something that Haley knows how to use.

    Not worried about his size, basically an AB clone out of the combine. All that said, no way he falls to us.

  • Sam Clonch

    Nothing would make me happier than to see them draft someone OTHER than Garret! Even on a garbage Browns team I’d rather not have to go up against him twice a year.

  • Chad

    I was watching Ross’ 40 last night and my four year old sits down next to me, “I’m faster than that guy Daddy” he says. Lol

  • Rusted Out

    No doubt, but the kid just ran himself into the top ten, so it’s a moot point.

  • LucasY59

    better to have done due diligence for nothing, than to have the unexpected happen and be unprepared

  • Dan

    That 4.22 just put him in the top 20, and I may be selling him short. He’ll be an amazing deep threat, provided he has the hands to match. That 40 time probably brought the inner Al Davis out in a few NFL execs.

  • Boots

    Just worries me a bit. Shoulders are tricky. Are you sure its just clean up?

  • LucasY59

    from what I have heard it is a minor surgery, nothing like what McKinley had on Monday