The first thing you need to know about John Ross is that he’s fast, a fact that his NFL Combine time confirmed. Ross clocked in at 4.22 seconds, beating out Chris Johnson’s 4.24-second 40 at the 2008 combine.
We didn't need the electronic time to know it, though: Ross spent his fall terrorizing college defenses, when healthy, and causing nightmares for Pac-12 defensive coordinators.
The Bengals surprised the football world when they drafted him with the ninth overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. He missed their season opener with a knee sprain, but he’s expected to make his debut in Week 2, on Thursday against the Texans.
Ross was one of the biggest keys to Washington’s run to the College Football Playoff in 2016. He was the player that always had to be accounted for, then accounted for again. He was changing the looks of a defense and a game simply by being on the field. He’s that scary.
The thing about Ross is he’s not just about top-end speed. He’s got gears, and they work like a supercar, getting him moving quickly and efficiently until he’s roasted a poor defensive back one way or another.
He’s done that to the best, including USC’s Adoree’ Jackson, one of the country’s best defensive backs and a fellow 2017 draft prospect:
Jackson even had to laugh.
It’s the acceleration that allows Ross to make defenders look foolish. While the straight-line speed is getting Ross attention at the combine, it’s what he does in tight spaces that’s fascinating.
Numerous times this past season I watched Ross, in tight quarters and hemmed in, perform a ballet that left him unscathed and defenders grasping at air.
He can jump, too. If you were wondering.
There’s a disclaimer that goes along with all of this: 2016, a year in which he was coming back from an ACL injury, was also the first year Ross could stay on the field.
The potential and the sheer athletic ability had always been there, but the size and injury concerns linger for Ross as well. That was also on display at the combine, when he blazed to a 40 and came up injured, done for the day.
Your team is going to want John Ross, though.
You, as a fan specifically, are going to want him. I watched him as a fan of Washington State, a rival and the eventual runner-up to UW in the Pac-12 North last year. I couldn’t resist clapping and laughing as he destroyed folks on the field week in and week out.
As a player, John Ross means highlight clips for fans and hell for opposing coaches. It’s a fantastic combination for anyone who loves fun.