Name: Fred Ross
School: Mississippi State
Position fit: “Z” receiver
Stats to know: Averaged 2.32 yards per route run in 2016, 12th-most among SEC receivers that were targeted at least 50 times.
What he does best:
- Aggressive hands catcher. When he does catch the ball he does it by reaching out and going after it, doesn’t let it get into his body. Has a good catch radius because of that.
- Uses his size really well in contested catch situations. Will box out defenders if he feels them coming and turn his body to absorb hits in order to protect the football.
- Will put his body on the line and sell out to make a catch, even if there’s a big hit coming.
- Will get up and win 50/50 balls, even against two defenders. Good at reading the ball and timing his jump to high-point the ball. Good body control.
- Solid over-the-shoulder tracking ability on deep balls.
- Versatile, played on both sides of the field in college, lined up both in the slot and out wide. Had success everywhere he lined up.
- Good zone beater. Can adjust his routes and pick out holes in zones to settle into.
- Aggressive and very willing run-blocker.
- Doesn’t have great speed or quickness. Was not able to separate against decent corners.
- Struggles mightily against press coverage. Not very quick off the line and too easily rerouted by head-up defenders. Alabama basically shut him down completely with press.
- Maddeningly inconsistent hands. Will make a phenomenal catch one play and then drop an easy one the next.
- Takes too long to slow down/stop, defenders can read if he’s going to keep going deep or slow down for a hook.
- Doesn’t offer a ton of after-the-catch ability, usually the first man to get contact on him will make the tackle.
Player comparison: Greg Little
Little had very strong hands (though very inconsistent) and used those to find early success in the NFL despite not having the speed or quickness to separate from defenders. He became a solid possession receiver through his first few years in Cleveland.
Bottom line: Ross is going to have a big learning curve transitioning to the NFL. He’s not fast enough nor a strong enough route-runner to consistently separate, especially against NFL athletes. He really struggles against press coverage, which will be even harder to beat in the pros. That said, if he can shore up his inconsistency catching the football he’ll likely find playing time. When he does catch the ball it’s effortless and strong, even if the coverage is incredibly tight. He’ll likely never be a No. 1 option, but could develop into a nice second or third.