Career Recap: During the prolific run of head coach Dabo Swinney at Clemson, the Tigers have produced many superb receiver prospects for the next level. That group includes top-10 picks Mike Williams and Sammy Watkins, althoughw late first-round pick DeAndre Hopkins is perhaps the best wide receiver in the NFL. So, Ross was clearly something special when he could see the field as a freshman and become an instant contributor for the Tigers. While Clemson spread the ball out as well that season, Ross made the most of his receptions in 2018, totaling 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns on 46 receptions for an average of 21.7 yards per catch. He then totaled 66 receptions for 865 yards and eight touchdowns as a sophomore in 2019.
In the spring of 2020, Ross was dealing with symptoms similar to a stinger in his neck. Testing revealed that Ross had a congenital fusion in his spine. He had surgery a few months late, which knocked him out for the 2020 season. There were some questions of whether Ross would ever play football again, but he stated his goal was to come back. In the spring of 2021, he returned to non-contact parts of practice, and in August of 2021, Ross announced his medical clearance to play the 2021 season.
2021 Season Outlook: While Clemson lost star quarterback Trevor Lawrence to the NFL, the program has a talented quarterback in D.J. Uiagalelei ready to replace him. The Tigers have an easy 2021 schedule, and Ross should produce a huge season if he stays healthy.
In the season opener against Georgia, Ross will take on former teammate Derion Kendrick, and that will be a good challenge to start the year. In Week 2, South Carolina State cornerback Decobie Durant will be a nice challenge because he is a ballhawk who made it onto NFL teams' preseason watch list. Otherwise, Clemson's schedule is bereft of opposing cornerbacks who made that advance watch list.
Skill-Set Summary: There was a lot of hype for Ross during his freshman season, and he ended up living up to the billing. Some were saying he was on a par with Mike Williams, Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins. There were even some media analysts who compared Ross to Hall of Fame Randy Moss, one of the greatest wide receivers in NFL history. Watching Ross presents no doubt that he is a special player. He could potentially be a taller and faster version of Hopkins in the NFL.
Ross has a rare combination of size and speed that makes him a dynamic playmaker. With his excellent height and long frame, Ross offers an immediate size mismatch against cornerbacks. Like Hopkins, Ross is phenomenal at making contested catches, showing superb hands to make juggling and acrobatic receptions along the sideline. Also like the Arizona Cardinals great, Ross is tough and physical with defensive backs, using his size and strength to get late separation or box them out for the football. With his height, arm length, and leaping ability, Ross presents a huge catch radius for his quarterback.
Tall, big receivers are a dime a dozen for the NFL, so what really makes Ross special is the speed he has at his size. While Ross may not be as fast as say a Jaylen Waddle, Henry Ruggs, Will Fuller, or DeSean Jackson, Ross is fast for a big receiver and can burn cornerbacks downfield. He is a threat to flat out run away from the defense and not get caught behind thanks to his second gear in the open field. Ross shows a special skill to maintain his speed while getting engaged by cornerbacks, and Ross has a late burst that helps him get open. He has serious speed for a big receiver and is a threat to hurt defenses in all levels.
Ross' speed also shows up after the catch and on short receptions, as he can dart downfield through the secondary. For a big receiver, Ross has some nice moves in the open field to dodge tacklers and pick up more yardage. He is more elusive than many big wideouts, and he has the size to finish runs really well. Ross should be an excellent red-zone weapon in the NFL.
Like any college player, Ross has some things to improve for the NFL. He could stand to sharpen some of his routes and avoid rounding off some cuts. While he is a tremendous receiver for making contested catches, Ross often mistimes his jump and catches the ball on the decline rather than high pointing the ball. Ross gets away with it in college because of his height, length and hands, but NFL cornerbacks will be more adept at breaking up some of those receptions. Improving his timing to high point the ball better will make Ross even more dynamic and dangerous.
Ross is a true killer on the football field. He is a mismatch nightmare who looks like a future No. 1 receiver in the NFL, provided he can stay healthy. Ross could be a faster version of Mike Evans as a pro, and it would not surprise me if Ross becomes an elite receiver similar to Evans early in his NFL career.
2022 NFL Draft Expectations: Entering the 2021 season, Ross looks like a first-round talent, but the medical evaluation from NFL team doctors could have a big impact on where he goes in the 2022 NFL Draft.