What if Tom Telesco is so wrapped up in adding a dimension to this team that doesn’t exist that he shocks us all?
What if this player slides for whatever reason and Telesco trades up to get him? Or there’s a situation where the team trades back and is in a spot where he is the best player?
We’re just going through every scenario, and John Ross should be a real one.
When you watch someone like Curtis Samuel you’re left thinking “wow, this guy can fly.” When you watch John Ross you rewind the play thinking “there’s no way in hell that just happened.” Samuel ran a 4.31 40 yard dash which is ridiculous. Ross ran a 4.22 which just doesn’t happen. What’s crazy is he really plays that fast. Just glides past defenders. The saying goes “if we’re even we’re leaving”, when it comes to a receiver being even with the defender. With Ross, if he’s a couple steps behind you, you’re still beat. It took the 1st game of the year to recognize the different kind of speed he has.
Let’s break this down. First off, it’s a luxury to be able to take one step, throw the ball 40 yards, and know that your receiver can get there. That is not common. As for the defense, the corner does nothing wrong. He mirrors, he runs with Ross, he just doesn’t have the gear that Ross does. Nobody does. Even the safety, who is cheated over to help and doesn’t get a poor jump can’t cover the ground because the ball is thrown further than he anticipated. This is the element Ross brings.
Check this sting route below on the next drive from the slot:
The QB throws the ball when Ross makes his cut to the outside. So when he’s a good 3 yards or so in front of the defender, the defender is already beat. That is a skill. Speed is a skill. You see it in every phase and at every level with Ross. Whether it’s deep passes like this, on screen passes, or intermediate routes. And of course, you see it on his returns. Another valuable skill Ross possesses is tracking the ball deep over his shoulder. He makes tough basket catches look effortless.
My 1 complaint I’d have is on deep passes I’d like to see Ross go outside of his frame to go get them. Catch it at it’s highest point instead of waiting on it. He was able to draw some pass interference calls just because he was so far out in front of everyone but it’s not a great habit to have when the contested situations arise.
Getting better at the top
The biggest area for improvement in his game is getting better at the top of the routes. This is against man and zone. In man coverage Ross can do a better job of coming back to the ball as well as selling his routes. Whether it’s with a head-fake, jab step, anything. In zone, when he crosses the middle, there are times where he is looking back at the QB when he needs to clear the linebackers first.
Let’s start with man. The Colorado and Alabama games were inadequate exposures for Ross at the top of his routes. Projected 1st rounder Marlon Humphrey from the Crimson Tide took Ross completely out of his routes on multiple occasions. Those reps were not pretty. Even on the other side, Ross didn’t have much luck.
When I saw he can be better at the top of his routes this is a prime example. That is a methodical head-fake and a good corner doesn’t fall for it as he cuts him off and beats him to the spot.
Against the Buffs, the same bad habits showed its face. Some routes were the simple, every game routes like a curl route:
In that situation Ross has to get even with 26 and sell the vertical route for another step or two. You never want a receiver to run a route at or short of the sticks. Curl routes by design you go from 12 yards back to 10. Since this was a shorter down and distance, Ross probably needed to go 10 back to 8. He went 7 and stopped at 7. That’s a no-no and the offense is lucky it wasn’t a pick 6.
Near the goal line Ross faced one of the better corners in the draft at defending underneath routes and the corner had inside leverage. Ross went with another “through the motions” effort at the top of the route and against an aware corner the result was predictable.
When a corner has that much leverage you have no choice but to sell something hard to the outside from the get go. Ross stuttering isn’t bad, there just needs to be another step or 2 towards the pylon to get 23 to bite on the threat of the fade. You don’t see the pass is broken up.
With dynamite players like Ross you like to get them changing directions that way they can create as much space as possible and flourish after the catch. Ross was great in the few routes where he was asked to changed directions. Below is a snag route.
Defenders have to respect his speed crossing the field. When Ross bends over his toes and chops his feet, that’s great stuff. The effort at the end could be better, and the catching outside of his frame concerns show up, but the route is how Ross needs to sell all his routes at the top.
Even against lesser corners, they were still able to get their hands on Ross at the top of his routes. This is why I shy away from DeSean Jackson comps. You hardly ever saw DBs touch ‘Jaccpot’ in his career. There are reps of Ross exaggerating head-fakes and jab steps when it’s time to break so that’s encouraging.
When the ball is in his hands, Ross dances a little more than he has to but the results are there and he does a good job of making the 1st guy miss.
None better at the beginning
Off the line of scrimmage, Ross has the best releases of any receiver in the draft. They are quick and efficient. Because defenders have to honor him they over correct and by the time they’re on their 2nd step Ross is on his 3rd and long gone.
5 releases by John Ross.— KP (@KP_Show) January 30, 2017
"Win early so you don't have to win late" pic.twitter.com/uEIl28rE6s
There is 5, but I had several to choose from. He’s just too much to handle at the line of scrimmage and because of that, he’ll have a good shot at being successful at the next level.
Guys are able to get their hands on Ross more often in the slot, for whatever reason. I think he’s most dangerous on the outside because of the threat to go vertical. So in off coverage, corners have to bail earlier and he has all kinds of room. He cleaned up on out routes. If corners press, we saw how that worked out above. His footwork off the line is unmatched and pairing that with his quickness, woo boy.
Why roll the dice on Ross?
On the field, Ross is a reliable target. Per PFF he dropped 6 of 105 catchable passes the last 2 years. Unlike any receiver in the draft, he has an elite trait, his speed. It’s uncanny. Then you see him win before the ball is thrown and with his wiggle after the ball is in his hands he is a guy that has a chance to score every single play. Ross is much more than a deep threat as I mentioned he cleaned up on out routes and with his quickness he is able to convert slant routes and protect himself from big hits. Throw in his return ability and the fact that a defense has to keep a safety over top of him, helping your run game, Ross might not sneak out of the top 10 on draft night.
The issues could scare teams, however. Off the field, Ross tore his MCL in 2014, his ACL in 2015, and had surgery this month on his shoulder. That alone could scare teams off, and that’s fair. On the field, bigger more physical corners were able to expose him a bit at the top of the route. You’d like to see him recognize zones across the middle as well as high point passes or catch them out of his frame. We shall see if he can improve this. If he can, he’ll be a threat for years to come. If not, he’ll be another over drafted receiver.