2022 NFL Draft Rookie Profile: Justyn Ross (Fantasy Football)
One of the more intriguing prospects in this year’s draft class is Clemson wide receiver, Justyn Ross. As a freshman at Clemson, Ross broke out, leading many analysts to believe he would be the next elite college wide receiver prospect. Unfortunately, Ross had some medical issues and dips in production, tanking his draft stock. This article will look at his college production profile, get into the career-threatening injury he faced in 2020, and dive into some film.
Editors Note: This article is part of our Rookie Profile series going on until the 2022 NFL Draft. For more on each rookie, check out Andy, Mike, and Jason’s exclusive rookie rankings and production profiles found only in the Dynasty Pass, part of the UDK+ for 2022.
Coming out of high school, 247Sports had Justyn Ross ranked as the seventh-best wide receiver recruit in 2018 and rated him as a four-star prospect. Ross stepped into the Clemson starting lineup and immediately produced as a true freshman. He was a big-play threat and led the team in receiving yards, beating out then-sophomore receiver Tee Higgins, who led the team in receptions. Future NFL players Hunter Renfrow and Amari Rodgers were also on that team. Having an early breakout age of 18.7 is always a good sign for prospects and having done so while competing with other future NFL players is good too.
The scripts were flipped in 2019 between Ross and Higgins. Ross led the team in receptions, but Higgins became the downfield threat and led the team in yards (1,167).
Due to a career-threatening neck injury, Justyn Ross was forced to sit out the entire 2020 season. There will be more on the injury later; for now, we will look at his return to college football in 2021. Ross played ten games in 2021 and led the team in receptions and receiving yards, but his yards per reception decreased once again. The offense as a whole struggled compared to what we were used to seeing from the Clemson Tigers in recent years.
The chart below from Campus2Canton.com shows us that Ross was far from hitting the desired threshold in his final collegiate year for yards per team pass attempt, a solid metric used to predict future success in the NFL. He dominated his first year and just missed the threshold in his second season.
According to an article by Andrea Adelson of ESPN, Ross had what seemed like a stinger injury during spring workouts in March 2020 in a scrimmage. X-rays would reveal that two vertebrae in his spine were fused, and he had a bulging disc. The congenital fusion in Ross’s spine was something that he was born with called Klippel-Feil syndrome. The doctors that had broken the news to Ross told him that he might never play football again because those with the same condition should avoid activities that can injure the neck.
Per the ESPN article, the decision eventually came down to Ross on whether he would attempt to play again, considering the risk. Ross said, “I want to put my family in a better position. That was one of the biggest things that can help me do that. So I don’t want to give up on that.”
|Height||Weight||40-yard dash||Vertical||247 Sports|
Justyn Ross didn’t participate in the NFL combine, but he did measure in at 6’4″ and 205 pounds (24.95 BMI). Ross has the height that you want in a number one receiver, but he remains slightly underweight when comparing him to other receivers as tall as him who have had success in the NFL. Ross ran a 4.63-second 40-yard dash at his pro-day. Although Ross is a bigger receiver, his 4.63 40-yard dash is slower than we would hope.
What’s On Tape
Games Viewed: Pittsburgh (2021), NC State (2021), Georgia (2021)
I decided to keep to the 2021 season while evaluating the tape on Ross. There wasn’t much I could find in his breakout 2018 season other than just highlights, and I thought it was best to evaluate the player’s most recent season, especially post-injury. The clips below were from Dynasty Nerds film room and ACC Digital Network on YouTube.
Ross makes good adjustments to the Ball
While watching the tape, I was most impressed by his ball skills. He displayed it many times throughout his career at Clemson with some impressive highlight-reel receptions. For a big guy, he can adjust his body to the ball well, even getting relatively low when needed to secure the catch, as seen in the play below.
He attacks the ball well
Ross is also good at the catch point and attacks the ball in the air at its highest point. In this next clip, you will see Ross highpoint the ball and secure the catch even after hitting the ground hard after the hit by the defender. I love receivers who can get up and snatch the ball out of the air like this and win 50/50 balls. He displays good tracking and timing as he goes up to get it.
Although this play was older, I can’t write about his ball skills and not show it. This catch against Alabama in the National Championship Game in 2018 was insane. Justyn Ross has excellent hands, and he fully displays that here. This clip is courteous of SportsCenter on twitter.
What’s Not On Tape
As I mentioned previously, it’s interesting to see how Ross had a decrease in yards per reception in each season. On a couple of plays where I noticed that he was going deep, he seemed to lack separation. He relies on winning at the catch point, and he’s no burner, which was confirmed with his 40-time at his pro day. Below is an example of a play where the defense was with him as he tried to go deep. He will likely struggle even more to run the nine route at the next level.
Yards After the Catch
Creating yards after the catch is not a strong suit for Ross, who often gets tackled on the first contact. There were a few plays where he gained some extra yards, but he was typically brought down right away if a defender was near him.
2022 Fantasy Outlook
According to NFLMockDraftDatabase.com, Ross is expected to be drafted in the 4th round of the 2022 NFL Draft. Receivers with that low draft capital typically do not work out, especially in their rookie season. It’s not impossible because Amon-Ra St. Brown broke out last year, but it remains doubtful that 4th-round picks become a player you can trust in your fantasy lineups. For now, Ross likely becomes a dynasty league stash and will probably not be relevant in the 2022 season.