According to a report by ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Washington Huskies receiver John Ross will forgo his senior season and enter this year’s NFL draft.
Ross, a fourth-year junior from Long Beach, California, led the Pac-12 with 17 touchdown receptions this season and caught 81 passes for 1,150 yards. He is projected by CBS Sports as a likely first-round pick and the No. 2 receiver in the draft class. His reported decision to declare for the draft is not a surprise.
Ross came to UW as a four-star athlete out of Long Beach Jordan High School, and saw the field during his true freshman season at kick returner, receiver and defensive back. He returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown in UW’s Fight Hunger Bowl victory over BYU that year, then spent time at both receiver and cornerback during coach Chris Petersen’s first year at UW in 2014. Ross also returned two kickoffs for touchdowns that season.
A torn anterior cruciate ligament and subsequent surgery forced Ross to sit out the 2015 season, but he recovered well enough to run a hand-timed, 4.25-second 40-yard dash at UW’s Husky Combine in March, then immediately established himself as the offense’s premier playmaker during spring practices and fall camp.
A raw athlete for the first two years of his career, Ross refined his route-running skills and developed into a truly talented receiver. He learned when and where to use his speed, remaining a deep threat while also turning into UW’s top option in the red zone. He caught two touchdown passes and returned a kickoff for a touchdown in UW’s 2016 season opener against Rutgers, setting the tone for what would be one of the best seasons by a receiver in UW history.
His elite speed changed the dynamic of a Washington offense that ranks in the top 10 nationally in scoring and yards per play. Ross’ emergence helped UW quarterback Jake Browning tie the single-season Pac-12 record with 43 touchdown passes.
Ross’ 17 touchdown receptions were second-most in UW single-season history (behind Mario Bailey’s record of 18 in 1991), and his 1,150 receiving yards were fourth-most in school history.
Ross finishes his collegiate career with 22 touchdown receptions, 1,729 receiving yards and a school-record four kickoff-return touchdowns.
He likely will not be the only UW underclassmen to declare for this year’s draft; cornerback Sidney Jones, safety Budda Baker and defensive linemen Elijah Qualls and Vita Vea are all projected by CBS as potential first-or-second-round picks.
Qualls told The News Tribune after UW’s season-ending, 24-7 loss Saturday to No. 1 Alabama in a College Football Playoff semifinal that he will seek input from those close to him before making a decision. Baker said the same.
“Discussion with my coaches, especially my position coach. He’s definitely somebody I trust,” Qualls said. “Just a lot of checking, reassurance, weighing my options. Kind of the same thing I did recruiting.”
The 2017 NFL draft begins April 27 in Philadelphia.