Why Undrafted?: Justyn Ross, WR, Clemson

This series was created in response to questions about why certain well-known prospects went unselected in NFL drafts. For these articles, I reach out to sources with NFL teams to find out why their organizations passed on drafting a given player, and/or, what were the reasons for other teams to pass on that prospect. The positive response to “Why Undrafted” and questions from readers about why prospects were drafted lower than the media expectations led us to create the parallel series “Why the Slide?”

Both series are back this year. Feel free to email me requests for Why the Slide? and Why Undrafted? at [email protected]. I can’t promise to get to all of them, but I will do my best and definitely will respond to the email.

When Trevor Lawrence was leading Clemson to a National Championship as a true freshman, Ross was the star wide receiver who was eliciting comparisons from ESPN analysts to being the next Randy Moss. That season, Ross made the most of his 46 receptions, totaling 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns, averaging 21.7 yards per catch. Ross’ production was down somewhat as a sophomore in 2019, but Clemson had also lost talent to the NFL and spread the ball around on offense.

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 for it a few months later, 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. Eventually, he was medically cleared, and he returned to the field for the 2021 season. Ross dealt with injuries in 2021 that limited him once again. The junior totaled 46 receptions for 514 yards – 11.2 average – and three touchdowns for his season. Clemson’s quarterback play also struggled without Trevor Lawrence, but Ross did not look like the same player he was in 2018 and 2019.

In the days before the 2022 NFL Draft in the Hot Press, WalterFootball.com reported that some teams had flunked Ross medically. Many teams had medical concerns about Ross, and his declining play along with the durability issues led to him going undrafted.

After falling through the 2022 NFL Draft, Ross signed with the Kansas City Chiefs. On the plus side, they have an elite quarterback and coaching staff. The Chiefs, however, have a crowded depth chart, so it could be difficult for Ross to make the 53-man roster. Veterans Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Mecole Hardman and JuJu Smith-Schuster are assured of roster spots, as is 2022 second-round pick Skyy Moore. That leaves two or three roster spots for Ross to compete for, and he has some tough competition in the form of Josh Gordon, Corey Coleman, Cornell Powell and others. Kansas City will give Ross a legit shot to make the team, but he will have to regain his 2018 form and stay healthy to stick in the NFL.

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