Who said all the top rookie talent is found in the draft? Kansas City Chiefs general manager Brett Veach and his staff have been hard at work in the UDFA market since the final selection was announced on Saturday and KC landed a big fish on May 2.
Clemson star Justyn Ross will sign with the Chiefs according to NFL insider Jordan Schultz, who announced the decision after speaking to the wideout on the phone. As the reporter noted, Ross “led the ACC in receiving as a freshman in 2018, ranked fifth nationally with 21.7 YPC and was second in receiving touchdowns” that year.
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A Worthy Gamble
You might be wondering why every NFL franchise passed on such a talented prospect. The former four-star recruit had a bright future in 2019 after 1,800-plus receiving yards combined over his first two seasons, but his collegiate career was derailed by a rare spinal disorder that led to neck surgery in 2020.
Schultz detailed the many setbacks of his Clemson tenure: “congenital fusion in his spine, stress fracture in his left foot, covid.” Still, with the ability Ross has showcased on the field, it’s incredible that not a single team was willing to take a low-risk flyer on him in round six or seven.
NFL insider Ian Rapoport explained the wide receiver’s medical condition: “Justyn Ross had a congenital fusion of his upper cervical spine and then a surgical fusion at a level below performed by Dr. David Okonkwo, a respected Steelers doc. Many teams had taken him off their draft boards, so the risk was real. But the talent is also real.”
According to Schultz, Ross claims to be in “terrific shape.” He continued: “Just got off the phone with Justyn Ross. He’s FIRED up for the opportunity with the Chiefs!”
Schultz also confirmed that the 6-foot-4 playmaker has been medically cleared to resume football activities this summer. Another big-time weapon for Patrick Mahomes.
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Ross Is ‘Most Effective’ in Vertical Passing Attack
There’s no doubt that Ross had plenty of suitors as a UDFA, even if no team was willing to draft him. He waited two days to make his decision, but the Clemson product may have chosen perfectly.
NFL draft expert Lance Zierlein scouted that “Ross is most effective in a passing attack that features vertical throws, where his stride length and build-up speed will work in his favor.” There aren’t too many offenses in the NFL that can compete with the Chiefs and Mahomes in that regard.
Despite his prowess as a deep threat, The Draft Network’s Damian Parson wrote that “ideally, his best routes come in the short-to-intermediate areas of the defense.”
The analyst continued: “His ability to separate from opposing defenders has a mixed bag of results… He is best deployed from the slot with a two-way go. He uses this to his advantage to manipulate the coverage and leverage. Against free releases, he uses his burst to threaten vertically before gearing down on comeback and curl routes.”
While straightaway speed and explosiveness aren’t necessarily Ross’ game, his football IQ and release on routes turned into big-play potential in college. He’s also an obvious red-zone threat, with 20 touchdowns in 38 games for the Tigers.
The key will be health. If Ross can stay on the field and renew his football career in Kansas City, head coach Andy Reid and the offense just signed a steal of a UDFA for Mahomes. If he doesn’t, it’s no harm no foul.