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‘Preview’ scouting reports are when I take a look at a small amount of tape and overall output data we have on a non-QB prospect before the NFL Combine and complete a preview report on what I’m seeing before I do a larger scouting study after the NFL Combine or Pro Days. Our computer scouting models cannot function properly without the NFL Combine and/or Pro Day data, so I’m not committing to these scouting reports being my definitive word on the prospect. Using what we have, I wanted to take a glimpse at some of the bigger names to share what I see initially.
Again, I don’t watch much college football during their season, so most every NFL Draft prospect is new to me when I start studying them after the season. Among the top name wide receivers in the draft, I knew of Mike Williams from people asking me questions the past two years. I knew he was a top guy for analysts. I’ve watched some of his work already this year. To a lesser degree, I knew of Corey Davis and have watched some tape. I’m much more familiar with the Senior Bowl WR prospects after pre-studying their tape and output as well as observing them for the week of practices.
One name that kept popping up in discussions of late was a guy I knew nothing about until just a couple of days ago – Washington WR John Ross. I had heard favorable things, and then I looked at mock drafts and saw that he was in virtually everyone’s top 3 among all 2017 WR prospects…with some placing him #2, and a few having him as their #1 WR prospect for the draft. With all the great rankings I saw on Ross, and then seeing he scored 17 receiving TDs last season…and also rushed for a TD and returned a kick for another (4 KR TDs in his career) – I was wildly excited to hit the tape.
I sampled three games with Ross, and I reached the same conclusion after each one – this is the #1 wide receiver for some people? This is a universal top 3 WR prospect…a first round pick, really? Honestly, maybe I will feel differently with more tape work, but on this basic preview report, I just wanted to get a feel for Ross’s skills/game with a couple-of-games sample. Each game I watched, just a few moments in…I’m thinking “Do I have the right prospect?” This is the guy who scored all those touchdowns last season…a top 3 WR prospect?
I’m not saying Ross is a ridiculous bust, but…wow…I mean, he’s listed 5′11″/190. I’m guessing he’s about 180 or less. Not that he can’t be small, thin, and skilled for the pros…he’s just very much a finesse receiver. He’s going to try to beat you with speed and then…that’s it. I’m all for speedster prospects for the NFL…if they are ridiculously fast, but I’d guess Ross is ‘just’ a 4.4+ 40-time runner…not a 4.2+ freak. As an upside, I’d say he reminds me of DeSean Jackson a bit. However, I didn’t think Ross was as dominant as DJax was/is. Ross seems more tentative, unnerved by contact/a physical game. I saw more of a ‘one trick pony’ with Ross – beat you with speed and that’s it.
Ross has 1–2 huge stat games in 2016, and then a lot of ‘fine’ or ‘OK’ statistical outputs otherwise…it’s just when he did make catches, a good chunk of them were for TDs. He has 21 TD catches in his 98 catches his past two college seasons. It’s not Ross creating these scores by his amazing athleticism. He gets open for a big play – and ‘pow’. Kinda reminds me of Will Fuller or Phillip Dorsett or Devin Smith…one trick…go deep. In the pros, that trick doesn’t work as often or as well. I don’t see Ross as a big bubble screen guy either…it’s more stretch the field.
Maybe I’ll see more of his gifts when I do an extended tape watch. Perhaps, he’ll run a 4.2+ 40-time at the NFL Combine and make me rethink things. However, right now, I don’t see it. I see a 4.4+ guy that tries to avoid contact with average to below-average hands. He’s an elite college speed burner…but in the pros he’ll be ‘another fast guy’. I’d rank 4–5 (at least) wide receivers from the Senior Bowl ahead of Ross, not to mention Mike Williams and Corey Davis.
Ross feels like a trap door prospect…like Will Fuller or Phillip Dorsett. Which also means he’ll likely be drafted in the first round by some foolish team…as Fuller and Dorsett were. Ross belongs in the NFL…just not as a top pick, or will become a team’s #1 WR. I can believe the hype on Mike Williams-Corey Davis at first glance, even though I think they may be a bit overrated…but Ross doesn’t belong in the same conversation with them at my first glance of him.