Clemson wide receiver Justyn Ross might have one of the most volatile draft stocks of any player at any position in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Ross has shown incredibly high upside, with a freshman campaign that looked like a “First Round” or even “Top 10” prospect. But he also had a very down junior campaign in 2021 for a Clemson team that was disappointing all around.
Ross’ evaluation is going to be complex and nuanced. Teams will need to weigh the opinions of medical experts while also teasing out how much of Ross’ performance in 2021 was on him, and how much was on the team around him.
If Ross gets a clean bill of health, could he wind up being a massive steal for an offense-needy team like the New York Giants?
Games Played: 38
Yards (YPC): 2,379 (15.1 per catch)
Games Played: 10
Yards (YPC): 514 (11.2 per catch)
Best: Height, athleticism, route running, ball skills, versatility
Worst: Health, play strength
Projection: A starting receiver with scheme and positional versatility – Health permitting
(Ross is WR number 8)
Clemson wide receiver Justyn Ross has a good combination of size, athleticism, and technical savvy to play the position at the NFL level.
Ross has played all over the Clemson offensive formation, lining up on both the left and right, at X receiver, Flanker, and as a slot receiver. He has also taken hand-offs (or short shovel passes) as a ball carrier on Jet Sweeps. Ross is a good, savvy route runner who uses a variety of releases to win off the line of scrimmage. He’s adept at using his footwork, burst, and hands to defeat press coverage and get into his route with the minimum of wasted movement and disruption.
He does a good job of varying his tempo and stride length to keep defenders off balance. Likewise, Ross presses the stem of his route vertically to force defenders to open their hips early or draw defensive pass interference calls. Ross has run a diverse route tree over his time at Clemson, being used as a big-play threat, a possession receiver, and as a target on short, quick passes.
Ross has good ball skills, doing a good job of quickly locating and tracking the ball in the air. He also makes good, quick adjustments to errant passes – even doing so on quick passes in the short area of the field. He is a natural “hands” catcher who uses his length to high-point the ball, as well as attack it in the air. Ross’ length, ball skills, and body control give him a wide catch radius, and the ability to expand receiving windows at all areas of the field.
Ross does offer some upside as a ball carrier. He has solid field vision, and uses his quickness and burst well to make initial defenders miss. His long strides also give him solid speed in the open field.
Ross is a willing blocker in the run game and on screens, showing a good understanding of the blocking schemes and his role within them. However, play strength is occasionally an issue for him, and he can be knocked off his blocks by bigger defenders, or defensive backs triggering downhill explosively.
Health is the single biggest question regarding Ross. Ross was born with a congenital fusion in his spine, and discovered the condition when he thought he suffered a stinger in March of 2020. He got surgery to correct the issue and was able to return for the 2021 season. Ross also suffered a stress fracture in his foot during the 2021 season. He played through the injury that year, but ultimately missed the final three games of the season.
Ross’ medical reports could be key to his draft stock.
Overall Grade: 7.1
How Justyn Ross projects depends entirely on his health and long-term prognosis.
If we assume that Ross is given a clean bill of health, he has the upside to be a good starting wide receiver in the NFL. He has the ability to play every receiver role an NFL offense will ask of him, and he has the athletic upside to be a dangerous player.
His ceiling was hinted at in his freshman campaign (2018) when he notched 1,000 yards, 9 touchdowns, and a Ja’Marr Chase-like 21.7 yards per catch. He took a step back in 2019, before his health concerns and the loss of Trevor Lawrence to the NFL derailed his 2020 and 2021 seasons. Ross could be one of the true steals of the draft if he is able to regain that form for an NFL team.
Even with the whole Clemson offense taking a step back in 2019 and in 2021, Ross still looked like a viable NFL wide receiver. He has the potential to be a true “X” receiver as a possession receiver from the slot or flanker position. Ross has faced more man coverage than any of the top receivers in this year’s draft class. 55 percent of his targets per route have been against man coverage, per Sports Info Solutions. He has also produced against man coverage, with an average of 4.75 yards per route run against man coverage – again, more than the top receivers in this draft class.
Of course, the big question regarding Ross will be his health. His medical tests throughout the 2022 draft season will be massively important and teams will have to decide for themselves just how much risk Ross’ health history poses.