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From (So-Called) Bust to Breakout Star: 3 reasons why John Ross could be the Chiefs secret weapon that nobody is talking about in 2023?

John Ross can pull off one of the greatest breakout seasons in Chiefs history with a full off-season

John Ross
John Ross (12) makes a catch while defended by former Chiefs safety Daniel Sorensen. (Photo by: Jay Biggerstaff/USA Today Sports)

As you all know, we are well and truly entrenched into draft season. The Shrine Game and Senior Bowl are done, the NFL Scouting Combine has come and gone, and pro days are currently happening. With the NFL Draft about a month away in Kansas City, (before signing Taylor and Omenihu) the Chiefs already started working on its 2023 offseason roster by signing players to reserve/futures deals. 

NFL teams use futures contracts to claim the rights to players they think will be able to make some noise in the upcoming season. Players that Veach had signed on them deals were current Chiefs OL Prince Tega Wanogho, former Chiefs RB Derrick Gore, CB DeAndre Baker and LB Darius Harris. Brett Veach has that approach of an MLB scout and the future contract system is like the minor leagues. One player I believe that fits that mold former first-round WR John Ross III.

On January 9 of this year, the Chiefs signed him to a reserve/futures contract. The Chiefs now have the ninth and 10th picks from the 2017 NFL draft with their franchise in Ross and quarterback (reigning MVP) Patrick Mahomes. In my opinion, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Ross made the 53-man roster this season.

Yes, Ross did not play in the NFL at all during the 2022 season after missing the final four games of 2021 with a knee injury while with the New York Giants. The 27-year-old speedster has been unable to stay healthy for a full season in five NFL seasons, but the Chiefs will take a flier on him. In 37 career games (21 starts), Ross has piled up 62 receptions on 143 targets for 957 yards and 11 touchdowns for the Cincinnati Bengals and Giants. 

Despite the stats, but going back to his tape we can see how Brett Veach sees that he can do much more than just be an effective deep threat, with traits elsewhere that will allow him to find success in our offense. With that being said, here are three ways the Chiefs could utilize John Ross and why it should excite fans in 2023.


More than Just Speed:

Remember, Ross wowed scouts at the 2017 NFL Combine, registering a 40-yard dash time of 4.22 seconds. That mark broke Chris Johnson’s record time of 4.24 seconds set in 2008. Ross’ time still stands as the fastest official 40-yard dash time at the Combine. When you look at his career in college at Washington and the NFL, Ross finds success in the short passing game, as if he gets into space to take advantage of his elusiveness and ability to make guys miss with great vision and body control. During his NFL career, he was never allowed to use kind of space in the shorter areas of the field like he did at Washington. However, with a QB like Mahomes, you can put him in position to run deeper routes, if he can find space underneath he has the tools and abilities to take advantage of any space given to him.


DeSean Jackson like Tracking Ability:

Yes coming out of Washington, Ross was compared to DeSeas Jackson. Both are explosive athletes at the receiver position when they touch the ball, something special is about to happen. Just like Jackson, Ross tracks the ball over his shoulder and does an excellent job of stacking the defender once he has a step. He has good size for someone with his elite speed and has a bigger catch radius than his 5-foot-11 frame would indicate. Like he did in 2021 against Dirty Dan, he’s not afraid to attack the ball in the air, he pairs a my-ball mentality with his world-class speed. If the defender misfires in his press, Ross is gone. 


The only way to make this roster is Special Teams (Kick Returner?):

Durability and productivity have both remained question marks throughout Ross’ NFL career, but Veach is known for taking chances on former first-round picks and attempting to get something out of them. Playing in 14 games in 2016 (College), Ross had 81 receptions for 1,150 yards and a whopping 17 touchdowns, adding 102 rushing yards and an additional score to his final stats. Ross also served as the Huskies’ kick returner, taking 17 kickoffs for 411 yards (24.2 avg.) and a touchdown. His 17 receiving touchdowns ranked third in FBS. Ross has no kick return experience in the NFL but he can be a game-breaker in that area like he did in college. Dave Toub, the Special Teams’ Guru like Veach is an evaluator of talent as well. He’s probably scheming ideas around Ross while watching his tape. Another reason this is a good idea is because it keeps the Chiefs from using Isiah Pacheco on kick return and give him more reps on offense. 

Former Chiefs GM Scott Pioli mentioned in his article from, “It’s important to note that one of the most important voices in finalizing the roster is the special teams coach (Toub). Special teams are such a crucial — though sometimes overlooked — aspect of the game, so there must be players who can perform at a high level in key roles on kickoffs, punts, field goals, etc. The final 5-10 spots on the roster are often made up of players who are core special teams contributors.” 

Ross could help his case by adopting the clean slate approach.



As if the Chiefs needed another playmaker with the ball in his hands. Ross is kind of a one-trick pony right now, but Andy Reid has taken deep threat types in the past like DeSean Jackson, Tyreek Hill, DeAnthony Thomas, Mecole Hardman and Kadarius Toney and carved out a useful role for them within his offenses. Overall, Ross is a complementary Outside (X/Z) WR who the Chiefs can use to line up in the Slot as well, using him best in short and intermediate areas against Zone relying on his world-class speed, solid acceleration to quickly cover space, solid change of direction to separate, and solid hands and good adjust to make catches in stride as well as block well. He has some positional versatility, as he can line up in the backfield and take a handoff and return kicks.


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