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Justyn Ross is heading for surgery to fix a stress fracture in his foot. Ross will miss the remainder of the college football season, and work to rehabilitate from the injury before preparing for the 2022 NFL Draft.
Health concerns have impacted Ross’ draft pedigree. While he had the opportunity to remain with the Clemson Tigers for the 2022 campaign, he has opted to make the leap to pro football and looks poised to be an in-demand prospect despite this potentially career-altering injury.
If you’ve regularly been on odds comparison sites this season, you’ll be well aware of the Tigers’ up-and-down campaign. With Clemson owning a 4-8 against the spread record, Ross has notched just three touchdowns. That’s a marked drop-off from his tallies of nine and eight as a rookie and sophomore respectively.
Ross has also seen his yards per reception experience a year-on-year decline. Notching 21.7 as a rookie, that figure fell to 13.1 as a sophomore and just 11.1 in his 10 games in the 2021 campaign.
Having missed the entire 2020 season for spinal fusion surgery, NFL teams are bound to be watching his return from this injury with interest.
While thought to be a first-round talent after his 2019 exploits, Ross is a difficult player to project ahead of the 2022 NFL Draft. He has not been the same potent threat after the spine surgery, and this stress fracture in his foot raises further uncertainty about his ability to stay on the field.
Going in the first round is no longer likely. Ross is seen as a player with the potential to be a number two receiver in the pros if he can stay healthy, but such concern about his health could see him fall into the third or fourth round of the draft in late-April.
Every team in the NFL can talk themselves into drafting another receiver or two. Ross’ upside is unquestionable, but only time will tell if front offices will take the gamble in the first three rounds.
There’s good reason for general managers to roll the dice on Ross. Standing at 6’4, he’s a big target with a wide catch radius. He’s a player who can make life easier for his quarterbacks as both a third down and red zone threat.
Ross’ frame also makes him an impactful blocker. Offensive coordinators can get inventive with players of his ilk. Whether wrestling for contested passes or being used as a decoy, the former Tiger can help to diversify an NFL offense.
The flip side, though, is a lack of explosiveness that could make it difficult to get separation in the pros. He’s never going to rack up big yards after the catch, neither possessing the speed or brute strength to extend plays.
Teams will like Ross’ game. How he’s viewed in the draft next year will all be about his health. There are areas for concern after a drop in production in 2021, but he’s got the upside to be a real threat in the NFL.