Don’t forget Josh Ross as a prospect in the 2022 NFL Draft. While some of his Michigan teammates garner first-round conversation, the linebacker has attracted little national attention. However, as his scouting report reveals, Ross has something to offer the NFL at the next level following an impactful final season with the Wolverines.
Josh Ross NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Linebacker
- School: Michigan
- Current Year: Graduate Senior
- Height: 6’0 3/8″
- Weight: 227 pounds
- Wingspan: 74 1/4″
- Arm: 30 1/2″
- Hand: 9 3/4″
Josh Ross Scouting Report
There was once an expectation that Ross would have a similar impact at linebacker for Michigan as Devin Bush Jr. While he hasn’t lived up to that hype, and therefore won’t match Bush’s selection as a first-round NFL Draft pick, there are reasons to believe that he can follow in the footsteps of Michigan LB prospects like Cameron McGrone as a Day 3 selection.
Ross does his best work coming downhill. When the game is in front of him, he can be impressively impactful both in the passing game and against the run. There are times when he appears to be shot out of a rocket, penetrating through gaps to cause quarterback pressure or to thwart the run before the back has had the opportunity to navigate past the line of scrimmage.
While some downhill explosion is evident to penetrate gaps, Ross also demonstrates some finesse in this regard. His slighter frame allows him to evade blockers, while he has the ability to dip his shoulder underneath to emerge untouched in the backfield. Additionally, Ross has demonstrated the ability to hit with ferocity as he comes downhill. There were several times on film where he visibly shocked his blocker, regardless of size or shape.
Football IQ, leadership, and special-teams experience
Although his best work is done flying downhill, that’s not to say he’s an out-of-control aggressor. Ross has demonstrated excellent football IQ, diagnosing particularly well against the run. He locates the ball carrier before unleashing his assault, ensuring that there were few missed tackles during the games studied. Additionally, the Michigan LB has demonstrated an understanding of his assignment when tasked with coverage in third-down situations.
Ross’ football IQ is also demonstrated by way of his on-field responsibility. As the MIKE linebacker in the Michigan defense, he’s responsible for communicating and directing his teammates. Ross can be seen helping ensure correct alignment. As a result, he’s both a vocal and visible leader with his high-motor performances on the field. Ross is a two-time captain for the Wolverines.
In addition to the areas of his scouting report that pertain to linebacker play, Ross possesses special-teams experience for Michigan. This will be valuable to carving out a role in the NFL. With his combination of impactful downhill presence against the run, football IQ, and special-teams value, Ross could hear his name in the mid-to-late Day 3 range.
Areas for improvement
While his scouting report reveals some NFL Draft potential, Ross does have several areas that could limit his role at the next level. At just over 6’0″ and under 230 pounds, the Michigan linebacker will potentially be seen as undersized for the NFL.
Furthermore, he lacks an elite athletic profile. While he can come downhill with a bang, Ross isn’t overly explosive. He also doesn’t possess the speed to make him a sideline-to-sideline threat. This was apparent on tape. However, it was also backed up with his performance at the NFL Combine.
Although straight-line speed isn’t everything, Ross doesn’t appear to possess elite lateral agility. He showcases some ability to start, stop, and change direction, but isn’t fluid or twitchy in his movements. This could be the result of some apparent hip tightness.
While his athletic ability will inhibit his coverage potential at the next level, there are also some football IQ areas for development here. Although Ross routinely diagnoses the run well, he can be sucked in by play action. The result is he can be far too late to react, without the athleticism to recover.
Ross’ Player Profile
While he heads to the NFL Draft on the back of the first 100+ tackle season of his college career, Ross made such landmarks a regular occurrence during his high school career at Orchard Lake St. Mary’s. He notched up triple-figure tackle numbers in three consecutive seasons from his sophomore through senior seasons.
Meanwhile, he was a productive force in the opposition backfield. Between his junior and senior seasons, Ross tallied 41 tackles for loss and 20.5 sacks. Furthermore, he registered 4 interceptions across the two years while logging at least 3 forced fumbles.
With incredible production came a plethora of accolades. Ross was a four-time Max Preps All-American. In 2015, his junior season, he was named the AP Player of the Year for Michigan DIII and DIV schools. The impactful linebacker followed that up by being named the 2016 Detroit Defensive Player of the Year. Individual success bred team glory, with St. Mary’s a three-time MHSAA DIII state champion from 2014-2016.
Ross’ on-field success translated to college recruiting. A four-star prospect, he was a top-10 linebacker in the 2017 class in addition to being the third-best player in Michigan. Unsurprisingly, Ross attracted attention from across the country. He held an SEC offer from LSU, a Pac-12 offer from Iowa State, and multiple offers from other Power Five conferences. However, Michigan born and bred, Josh followed his brother James to the Wolverines, committing in March 2016.
Ross’ career at Michigan
While Ross didn’t make an immediate impression as a freshman in 2017, he gained early experience on special teams that will help his chances of being selected in the NFL Draft. Having made his debut against Florida, he logged 4 tackles during 13 appearances, with his first contribution to the box score coming against Air Force.
Ross’ role in the Michigan defense grew in his sophomore season. Once again appearing in 13 games, he tallied 61 tackles, 1 sack, 2 pass breakups, and 5.5 tackles for loss. Amongst them were standout performances against Western Michigan (2 tackles for loss), Ohio State (7 tackles), and a sack on his first start at middle linebacker against Florida in the Peach Bowl.
Having earned an All-Big Ten honorable mention, Ross was primed to break out in the 2019 season. The Michigan LB made three starts to open his junior campaign. In those games against Middle Tennessee State, Army, and Wisconsin he tallied 18 tackles. Unfortunately, he’d succumb to an ankle injury, missing the rest of the season except for a return on special teams against Alabama in the Citrus Bowl.
The disruption of the 2020 campaign once again thwarted Ross’ ascension as an NFL Draft prospect. Although he made six starts, tallying 53 tackles that included a career-high 12 against Penn State, plus an interception against Minnesota, the Michigan LB wasn’t happy with his contribution to an ultimately poor season for the Wolverines.
Ross’ NFL Draft ascension
As a result, Ross returned for the 2021 college football season. He started all 14 games for the Wolverines, emerging as a leader on and off the field. As Michigan mounted a challenge for the College Football Playoff, their impactful linebacker registered double-digit tackle numbers in four games. Additionally, he had five games with at least 1 tackle for loss, including gamed against Rutgers and Penn State where had multiple TFLs.
With 106 tackles, 9 tackles for loss, 0.5 sacks, and 2 pass breakups, Ross’ graduate senior season was the most statistically successful of his career. Furthermore, he earned third-team All-Big Ten honors for his performances. He also earned an NFLPA Bowl and NFL Combine invite. Ross recorded a 4.79-second 40-yard dash, 9’1″ broad jump, and 31″ vertical in Indianapolis as he sought to elevate his 2022 NFL Draft stock.
Tony Pauline’s Scouting Report on Josh Ross
Positives: Underrated linebacker with a complete game. Instinctive, quickly reads plays, and fires to the action. Displays tremendous range on the field and goes sideline to sideline. Plays with a violent attitude and possesses a terrific closing burst. Can be a devastating hitter and drives his shoulders through opponents.
Easily changes direction, quickly gets out in lateral pursuit, and uses his hands to protect himself. Remains disciplined with coverage assignments, is very effective in zone coverage, and redirects to make the tackle in space.
Negatives: Lacks size, doesn’t stack well against the run, and gets caught up in the trash. Does not always take proper angles.
Analysis: While Ross lacks classic size, he’s an impact linebacker who violently defends the run while holding his own in coverage. Significantly underrated in my opinion, he has starting potential on the inside of a 3-4 alignment. And if properly coached, Ross will be a very productive professional.
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