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Is Clemson's Justyn Ross Lions' Wide Receiver of Future?

Read more on Clemson wide receiver Justyn Ross being a potential target of the Detroit Lions in the 2022 NFL Draft.

The Achilles’ heel of the Lions' offense in 2021 has been there is no true star power at the wide receiver position. Could that change if the Lions select Clemson standout Justyn Ross?  

Yes.  

On a Detroit team where the leading receivers are running backs and a tight end, the addition of someone of Ross’ caliber would make a world of difference. 

I see him more as a third-to-early-fourth-round pick that is capable of being a No. 2 wide receiver in the NFL. 

Ross has good hands and concentration. He also has shown the ability to make some tough-looking catches.  

Football scouting is about first impressions, and my first impression of Ross was that he looks like he has some dynamic abilities. Ross looks like someone who has star power.  

Playmakers make plays, and there is no question that Detroit desperately needs playmakers.  

There is nothing exciting about watching the Lions’ offense play, which is reflected by the team's 0-6 record. Watching this offense is like watching paint dry, compared to the offense of the Arizona Cardinals.  

Ross has quick feet and a real natural-looking feel for the position. He gets off the line of scrimmage well. He also has good quickness and burst, with very-average, long-range playing speed. 

He is a shorter strider (which he showed on his touchdown against Alabama in the 2019 National Championship Game). 

Ross’ inability to get deep separation and his little-to-no vertical leaping ability are real concerns. He just has not shown the ability to blow the doors off defensive backs or to get much real separation when tightly matched up deep. 

Ross is shifty, and he has a lot of body flexibility, which allows him to make quick and sudden changes of direction to create separation in the short and intermediate route levels. He is lean and muscular, and has a long upper body. This is why I see him as a perfect No. 2.  

Clemson likes to move Ross around pre-snap, and he excels on the short wide receiver screens and bubble routes, where he can use his quickness and toughness to pick up additional yardage (YAC). He can also take an occasional end-around, and he is not afraid to run block.  

Would a dynamic wide receiver, such as Ross, change things in Detroit?

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While Ross can not carry the weight of the team on his shoulders, he does play a position that can yield instant results. It is known in scouting circles that wide receivers can come in and start right away. 

Based on film study, there is no question Ross would instantly be Detroit’s best wide receiver. However, the Lions would still be left longing for a true No. 1.  

As an evaluator, I also have a couple of other concerns. The first is a study of his statistics.  

Ross exploded on to the college football scene, but his total yards per season, yards-per-catch average and number of touchdown receptions has been noticeably declining. 

While it is too early to know for sure if the total yards this season and touchdowns will end up being less than the two previous seasons, one stat does jump out -- his yards-per-catch average (2018: 21.7, 2019: 13.1 and 2021: 10.1). 

There can be other contributing factors, but that tells me as an evaluator, he is steadily becoming less explosive. When I watched him on film in 2021 vs. 2019, he also looked less explosive.  

This is especially a chief concern when adding in Ross’ medical background.  

It turns out Ross was born with a neck and spine issue that surfaced in the spring of 2020, when he had to undergo spinal surgery. He has since returned, but nothing scares teams more than pre-existing neck and spine conditions.   

Ross also recently suffered a minor ankle injury against Syracuse. He hobbled off the field, but he did re-enter the game.  

There is no way Ross will go in the first round, regardless of how well he plays in 2021. NFL teams are just not willing to take that kind of risk or make that kind of investment. Plus, he is not showing that kind of dominant ability on film. 

However, if Ross does continue to look good and he manages to stay healthy, Detroit could pounce on him in the third-to-early-fourth-round.  

Sometimes teams need to take a chance, and Detroit is definitely one of the teams in the NFL who needs to become a lot more aggressive at taking chances.