The Chiefs take a chance on Clemson’s Justyn Ross. It’s unknown if Ross will develop at the pro level, but his potential is through the ceiling.
Natalie Temple @natalietemple18 Chiefs Focus @ChiefsFocus
After not hearing his name called in the 2022 NFL draft, Justyn Ross signed a free agent deal with the Chiefs to be a part of their 90-man roster.
When Ross graduated from high school in 2018, he was a five-star recruit and the number two wide receiver in his class. His freshman year at Clemson, with Trevor Lawrence at quarterback, Ross lived up to the hype with 46 receptions and 1,000 receiving yards, all while collecting nine touchdowns and being named a freshman All-American by 247Sports.
Ross followed up his freshman campaign with a team-high 66 receptions and eight touchdowns during his sophomore year. As he approached draft eligibility, Ross was projected to be a first-round prospect.
Before the start of his junior season, Ross was diagnosed with a congenital spine condition called Klippel-Feil syndrome in which there is abnormal fusion of vertebrae in the neck. The condition threatened to put an end to Ross’s football career.
A few months later, Pittsburgh Steelers surgeon Dr. David Okonkwo successfully operated on Ross to correct the issue. In an interview with ESPN, Okonkwo said that he wasn’t aware of any other high-level American football player having this condition.
After missing the entirety of the 2020 season, Ross returned in 2021 recording 46 receptions, 514 receiving yards, and three touchdowns. However, his season was cut short in November by another injury, this time a stress fracture in his left foot.
Having already been set back once by his spinal condition, Ross decided to play through the injury despite it being diagnosed before the season began. In November, Ross chose to forgo the final three games of 2021 to have surgery on his foot in preparation for the NFL draft.
Although his receptions in the 2021 season were consistent with his receptions in the two previous seasons, he recorded far fewer receiving yards and touchdowns. This could be due to suffering from the stress fracture.
In March of 2022, Ross recorded a 4.68-second 40-yard dash at Clemson’s pro day, which was much slower than the top times of other wide receiver prospects. The lack of explosiveness in his 40-yard dash along with his underwhelming 2021 season made him a very high-risk draft pick in the eyes of NFL scouts.
But, the Kansas City Chiefs have decided to give Ross a shot because of his unwavering potential despite his setbacks. Will he fulfill the possibility of being an upside player? Only time will tell.