A true one-year starter at Washington, Ross is an elite athlete and shows impressive polish for a player who switched between offense and defense his first two seasons and then missed all of the 2015 campaign due to knee injuries. He was the Huskies kickoff return man as a true freshman and returned a 100-yard kick for a touchdown, adding nickel corner responsibilities on defense and 16 receptions for 208 yards and a score on offense. Ross started his sophomore season on offense and posted 17 receptions for 371 yards and four scores before making the switch to defense after cornerback Marcus Peters was dismissed -- started four games at cornerback in 2014, finishing with 16 tackles and one interception. He was expected to focus full-time at receiver in 2015, but missed the season due to knee injuries. Ross returned healthy in 2016 and had a career-season with a team-best 81 receptions for 1,150 yards and 17 touchdowns (Pac-12 best) to earn First Team All-Pac 12 and All-America honors (second team).
Health is a concern for some teams evaluating Ross. He was involved in the medical recheck at Indianapolis in April and the issue of durability will likely keep him out of draft conversations for many who otherwise would love to add the vertical threat.
Ross lined up all over the formation for the Huskies in 2016 and was a nightmare for defensive backs due to his vertical speed, sudden footwork and ability to manipulate coverages as a route technician. He doesn't have ideal thickness on his frame and will struggle at times against physical press corners, but his combination of athleticism, tempo and ballskills makes him a home run threat as a receiver, ballcarrier and kick returner.
STRENGTHS: Elite athletic traits with effortless speed and instant acceleration. Sudden release off the snap to get defenders off balance from the start -- no wasted steps, each move has a purpose. Explosive start/stop plant-and-burst, not having to gear down in his movements. Polished route runner with the savvy to set up defenders and the body control to snap out of his breaks. Deadly on double-moves with secondary burst downfield to create late separation -- often out-runs his quarterback as well, having to slow down on deep patterns to catch the ball in stride. Nose for the end zone with 17 receiving touchdowns in 2016, which ranked third in the FBS. Natural tracking the ball over his shoulder. Hand-eye coordinator to cleanly snatch, extending well to attack away from his body. Not afraid to get physical to beat the jam or get dirty as a blocker. Impact potential as a kick returner, averaging 24.4 yards in college and setting a new Washington record for kick return yardage (2,069) and touchdowns (four, including two 100-plus yards). Invested the necessary time to develop as a route runner and responds well to tough coaching -- low key personality and keeps a positive mind-set (wants to be a future coach). Finishes his career with the school record for 50+ receptions in a season (six) and career (11).
WEAKNESSES: Average height for the position with lean muscle tone and minimal growth potential. Doesn't have the body power to consistently create after first contact as a ballcarrier. Can be bumped off his route by physical corners and didn't consistently face press coverage in the Pac-12. High percentage of his catches were made in space and wasn't consistently asked to finish contested passes on tape. Tends to body catch when the ball is thrown at his numbers and will have his share of focus drops and double-catches. Needs to improve his ball security when fighting for extra yardage -- lost fumble at Washington State (Nov. 2016) and vs. Alabama (Dec. 2016). Only four career punt returns on his college resume for 21 yards (5.3 average). Injured his right knee (Sept. 2014, but didn't miss any games) and underwent postseason surgery (Jan. 2015) to repair two meniscus tears -- returned a few months later in the spring and suffered a torn ACL in his left knee, which required another surgery (April 2015).
NFL COMPARISON: Brandin Cooks, New Orleans Saints -- Despite being undersized like Cooks, Ross has the route running skills and athletic prowess to get open and be a big play target like the Saints receiver.
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