It seems more than obvious that the Packers will select at least one wide receiver with one of their two first-round selections. However, Justyn Ross is an interesting option if they opt to double-dip at wideout later in the draft.
Ross burst onto the scene in his freshman year at Clemson in 2018. He racked up 1,000 yards receiving and had nine touchdowns. His encore performance was just as good. In his sophomore season, he upped his reception total by 20 to 66 total. But his season-ending injury in 2020, coupled with his junior-season output, caused his draft stock to slip.
Ross never suited up for Clemson in 2020 because he underwent surgery for a congenital fusion condition in his neck and spine. In his return this past year, he tallied just 514 yards and three touchdowns. In defense of Ross, Clemson’s entire offense took a nosedive as they transitioned to life without Trevor Lawrence. But as a result of an average season for Ross, his first-round stock has dipped to the middle rounds. There still could be plenty of untapped talent if he’s able to regain his old form.
Green Bay’s offense is heavily based around a passing game designed to get the ball out of Rodgers’ hands quickly. Ross excels at short-to-intermediate route running, per The Draft Network.
Ross’ short-area routes are run with quickness and sharp cuts at the breaking point. On slants, comebacks, and out-breaking routes, Ross uses sudden, hard plants out of his breaks to win the rep. He understands leverage and how to manipulate DBs’ hips in off-coverage. He uses a false step or dead leg to move defenders away from his target area. He rolls well at the top of his routes and rarely loses speed or momentum. Ideally, his best routes come in the short-to-intermediate areas of the defense.
That should be music to Matt LaFleur’s ears. His ball skills and ability to catch through traffic are just as good if not better than his short-area route running.
He is known as one of the best high-point receivers in the country. He attacks the football at its highest point with an aggressive approach. Ross has incredible body control and leaping ability to sky over defenders. He possesses the ability to contort his frame and come down with two feet inbounds. When it looks like he is covered, he is not. Ross is a zip-code receiver, just place the ball in his zip and he will make a play on it.
Green Bay isn’t trying to hide their hand too much entering this draft. They know that everyone else knows that they need help at wideout. It’s a room that currently consists of Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb, and Amari Rodgers — that certainly won’t cut it. Per Packers.com, Mark Murphy hasn’t been hush-hush about what some of the plans will entail.
“I know a lot of people are panicking, ‘Who’s Aaron going to throw the ball to?’” said Murphy. “Well, we don’t have a game for quite a while. I know Brian and his staff — with the draft capital that we have, I think … let’s just say the draft is going to be very interesting this year. I think we can really help ourselves.”
His comment about the draft and how it’s going to be very interesting this year has Packers fans giddy. It also echoed a similar comment that LaFleur made the day prior, per Madison.com.
“If you look at our roster right now, we definitely need to get some speed in that room,” said LaFleur on Tuesday. “We need a legit guy that can take off the top of the coverage. We lost a guy that was pretty good at doing that.
“There’s going to be opportunities. There always is. Every year, there’s something that’s unforeseen; I bet a lot of people thought we wouldn’t have traded Davante. So, there’s always some unforeseen things that transpire, and you’ve just got to be able to take advantage of the opportunities that come.”
It’s no secret, Green Bay will be addressing the wide receiver spot — and likely prioritizing it — in the draft. Justyn Ross isn’t getting much attention after a disappointing junior year and an injury-filled season the year before. Now that he’s one year further removed from his spinal injury, it’s plausible that he starts getting back to his old ways. A quarterback like Aaron Rodgers could do wonders for Ross’ growth. If the Packers take a wideout in Round 1 and double up later on, Ross would be a great addition.