Following consecutive deep wide receiver classes, you could be forgiven for thinking there would be a drop-off in talent next year. However, there is a potent class of pass-catching playmakers to watch out for in the upcoming college football season. For Clemson WR Justyn Ross, it’s a minor miracle that he is playing at all this year, let alone being considered as a 2022 NFL Draft prospect. In his scouting report, we look at Ross’s skill set, successes, and return from surgery.
Justyn Ross NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Wide Receiver
- School: Clemson
- Current Year: Redshirt Junior
- Height: 6’4″
- Weight: 205 pounds
Justyn Ross Scouting Report
The most apparent attribute in Ross’ favor as an NFL prospect is his size. At 6’4″, he can be a dangerous target on the boundary or the back of the end zone. The Clemson WR combines his size with an impressive catch radius which helps him pluck the ball out of the air with remarkable ease.
Ross’s size, catch radius, and physicality make him a nightmare for the opposition in contested-catch situations.
Ross’s physicality is also present in another aspect of his game. The Clemson WR is willing and able as a blocker in the ground game. Whether at the line of scrimmage or further downfield, Ross helps seal off the opposition to create run-extending holes. Although he doesn’t excel in this area to the degree of someone like Tylan Wallace in last year’s draft class, Ross is still impressive as a blocker.
Although not necessarily fast or explosive (we’ll get to that shortly), Ross does demonstrate a certain suddenness in his movement. This is particularly apparent when selling route fakes and in his release at the line of scrimmage. The Clemson WR has impressive footwork in this regard.
Despite winning primarily as a vertical threat, Ross has exhibited alignment versatility. He has lined up both out wide on the boundary and field side of the formation and from the slot during his two playing seasons.
Areas for improvement
Although Ross has been a productive playmaker for Clemson and possesses some appealing elements to his game as a vertical threat, there are some areas for concern and improvement.
The Clemson WR isn’t going to win any foot races. His game isn’t predicated on explosion or speed. As a result, he cannot consistently maintain separation, relying solely on his ability to win contested catches. This also limits his ability to make big plays after the catch, which leads me to another observation.
Despite his physicality as a blocker, Ross is often taken down by the first tackle in the open field. He rarely makes a man miss, once again meaning he offers little opportunity for after-the-catch yardage.
Obviously, the biggest concern for Ross’s 2022 NFL Draft stock is how he returns from surgery. At this point, much is unknown about his ability to take a hit on the football field and how the year-long layoff will impact his game. As a result, his draft projection is unknown.
He owns early-round talent, and a season akin to his freshman campaign will likely cement him in that range.
Ross’ Player Profile
Although Ross will likely head to the 2022 NFL Draft, the Clemson WR nearly didn’t make it to this point of his career. An accomplished basketball player at Central High School, Ross considered making a career on the court early in his high school days. Only the determination of his football coach prevented the young pass catcher from turning his back on the gridiron.
Ross clearly possessed the ability to play football at a high level. One of just a handful of players to play as a freshman, he courted offers from Mississippi State and Kentucky before his sophomore season. They would be the first of over 20 offers for the four-star wide receiver and the 45th-ranked player nationally. Ross narrowed down his options to three teams — Alabama, Auburn, and Clemson — but remained uncommitted through his senior season.
During his final season in high school, Ross produced to a high level
As Central went 12-1 and secured a state semifinal berth, their wide receiver snagged 37 receptions for 730 yards and 13 touchdowns. Furthermore, he added special-teams value with 14 punt returns for 383 yards and 2 scores. Ross’ performances earned him first-team All-State honors and saw him named as a Mr. Alabama Football finalist.
As the No. 1 player in Alabama, the assumption was that Ross would commit to the Crimson Tide. Since 2005, only one player ranked as the best player in the state hadn’t played football for Alabama. Yet, in a televised appearance on ESPN, Ross donned a Clemson cap, becoming the first top-ranked player from the state to head to “Death Valley.”
At the time, Ross raved about “the different type of culture that they have there.” He also alluded to “more coaching stability.”
Ross’ career at Clemson
Following some impressive training camp performances, Ross made his debut as a Clemson WR in the season opener. The tall pass catcher made an immediate impact, snagging a touchdown against Furman. Two weeks later, against Georgia Southern, the true freshman put up his first 100+ yard receiving game.
Impressively, Ross broke triple-digit receiving yards on just 3 receptions.
Although Ross would become a consistent thorn in the side of ACC defenses during the 2018 season, he wouldn’t break 100 yards again until the College Football Playoffs. In the semifinal win over Notre Dame, Ross exploded into life. The Clemson WR snagged 6 receptions for 148 yards at an incredible 24.7 yards per catch.
As impressive as that performance was, Ross saved his best for the biggest stage of them all. Clemson claimed the college football national championship trophy with a win over Alabama. Ross secured a career-high 153 receiving yards at 25.5 yards per catch. He also added a touchdown in the 44-16 victory. Finishing the season with a team-high 1,000 yards and 9 touchdowns, Ross was named a Freshman All-American.
Despite sharing the Clemson WR room with Tee Higgins, Ross led the team in receptions in 2019
Ross also snagged a new career-high single-game reception total, reeling in 9 catches against South Carolina as part of a 111-yard and 1-touchdown performance. Although Clemson couldn’t secure consecutive national championships, Ross led the way with 76 yards in their loss to LSU.
Finishing his sophomore season with 66 receptions, 865 receiving yards, and 8 touchdowns, Ross earned an honorable mention on the All-ACC team. With Higgins departed for the NFL Draft, 2020 was expected to be the year Ross established himself as one of the premier pass catchers in college football.
Ross would spend 2020 battling for his football future rather than elevating his NFL Draft stock
Following a collision in spring training, the Clemson WR had an X-ray on a stinger injury. The results were more severe than anyone expected. Having discovered a congenital fusion and a bulging disk, Ross underwent spinal surgery. His 2020 season was over and his future was unclear.
Fortunately for Ross, he is expected to make a full recovery and a return to the field. Despite awaiting final confirmation at the time of writing, all signs point to him being able to lead the Clemson WR room this fall. Can Ross return to his previous form and put himself into early-round contention in the 2022 NFL Draft?
Want more prospect news? Want to do your own draft?
Dive into PFN’s Free NFL Mock Draft Simulator and test your own drafting acumen. Continue to visit Pro Football Network for NFL news and in-depth analysis. Also, be sure to follow us on Twitter (@PFN365) to stay in the loop on all things college football and the NFL Draft landscape.
Oliver Hodgkinson is a staff writer for Pro Football Network. You can follow him on Twitter at @ojhodgkinson.