Experienced and successful against good college programs
Makes big plays in the clutch
Ready to contribute immediately
Could struggle to win 50-50 passes against NFL corners
Could have issues getting off jam from big corners
Summary: Ross was one of the breakout play-makers in college football during 2016 and was a huge point-producer to help lead Washington to a Pac-12 Championship and a berth in the college football playoff. The 2017 NFL Draft isn't especially strong at wide receiver, so Ross is in the running to be the first wideout selected.
Entering the 2016 season, Ross wasn't a highly touted prospect as he didn't turn in big production as a sophomore (17-371-4) or freshman (16-208-1). Ross quickly emerged during 2016, however, as the Huskies' No. 1 receiver for quarterback Jake Browning, and they took the Pac-12 by storm. Ross had 81 receptions for 1,150 yards and 17 touchdowns on the year. He was a consistent source of big plays for Washington.
Ross helped his chances of going in the top 20 after breaking Chris Johnson's combine record in the 40-yard dash with a blistering time of 4.22 seconds. Ross pulled a muscle on the run, but the speed that he displayed is undeniable.
For the NFL, Ross is a speed receiver who can stretch a defense vertically. He is fast running down the field and is explosive off the line of scrimmage. Not only is he fast, but Ross is quick and sudden. He is very skilled at creating quick separation from cornerbacks because of his speed and quick-twitch athleticism. While Ross is a threat to challenge teams downfield, he is dangerous on short passes like slants, crosses and digs because of his ability to get open quickly. That also makes him valuable in the red zone even though he doesn't have significant size.
Cornerbacks have a hard time running with Ross, and he is a threat to rip off yards in chunks with his run-after-the-catch skills. Ross is a sure-handed and natural receiver as a route-runner. He tracks the ball very well downfield and has late hands to reach out for receptions rather than tipping off defensive backs by extending too early.
Ross is short and lacks length, so he isn't going to be receiver who wins a lot of 50-50 passes against NFL cornerbacks. He also could have issues getting off jams from bigger press-man corners. Ross could play outside, but it wouldn't be surprising if he is used mostly from the slot.
For the NFL, Ross projects to be a Brandin Cooks-type weapon for an offense. Ross could be a No. 1 or No. 2 receiver depending on the system and quarterback he goes to. Ross should be able to play quickly, and his speed should provide plenty of mismatches. In the 2017 NFL Draft, Ross looks like a safe bet to be a mid- to late first-round pick. After the season teams told me that Ross graded as a first-rounder, and that was before his electric 40 time at the combine.
Player Comparison: Brandin Cooks. Team sources agree that Cooks is a pretty good comparison, except they think that Ross could be a more natural receiver than Cooks. Both are fast players who have good hands and are explosive wideouts. They also are smaller receivers. Cooks went in the back half of the first round in his draft class, and Ross could go in a similar range.
NFL Matches: Buffalo, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Tennessee, Denver, Kansas City and Dallas
There could be a lot of teams in the market for an upgrade at wide receiver, so Ross should be safe to be a Thursday night selection.
Buffalo needs a wide receiver to pair with Sammy Watkins. The Bills badly need a play-maker to help their passing offense when Watkins is out of the lineup and exploit teams sending double coverage his direction.
The Eagles have to get more weapons for Carson Wentz. They added some receivers like Alshon Jeffery on a 1-year contract, and Ross would give Philadelphia a long-term weapon.
Baltimore could use more receiving talent for Joe Flacco, and Ross would be a natural replacement for Steve Smith.
Tennessee needs to find more receiving weapons for Marcus Mariota. Ross would make sense for one of the Titans' first-round picks.
Denver wants to add to its offense, and Ross would give Paxton Lynch a vertical weapon. He could give the Broncos a lethal three-receiver set with Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders.
Kansas City supposedly wanted Laquon Treadwell last year, so adding more receiving talent to go with Jeremy Maclin could be a possibility for the Chiefs. Dallas re-signed Terrance Williams, but could consider a speedy slot receiver like Ross. Considering the durability issues of Dez Bryant, the team could use another play-maker at receiver for Dak Prescott.