Is there a role for Justyn Ross in the Kansas City Chiefs' offense?

Kansas City Chiefs v Arizona Cardinals
Kansas City Chiefs v Arizona Cardinals / Michael Owens/GettyImages

On November 27th, 2023, it was announced that the domestic battery and property damage charges against Chiefs wide receiver Justyn Ross were being dropped. Ross has been on the Commissioner's Exempt List since October due to his arrest. Last Friday, it was announced that Ross would be suspended for 6 games by the NFL, counting the 5 games he'd already missed as time served. That meant Ross would be eligible to return to play and practice after the Chiefs game against the Buffalo Bills in Week 14.

Once regarded as a top NFL draft prospect, Ross has been with the Chiefs for two seasons as an undrafted free agent. His rookie season was spent on injured reserve. After winning a roster spot out of camp in '23, he's collected 3 catches for 34 yards in 7 games played. He also played some special teams logging 63 snaps. Ross was part of the Chiefs' 7-man wide receiver rotation that started the season active on game day.

To this point in his career, Ross has been more fan fiction than a productive NFL receiver. He's overcome a lot of injuries to reach this point in his career and his talent has flashed on the field. However, seeing him as a reliable or productive piece of the offense this year seems difficult. Ross was always going to have a limited path to production in this offense simply based on the WR rotation and the ways he wins.

Over his career in Kansas City, Patrick Mahomes has never been a tight window/contested-catch thrower. Yes, we get a few throws like that every year but there's not been a receiver who's had big success with Mahomes who isn't a separator. Between limited playing time and a small role, it's hard to see Ross factoring into the offense going forward.

Though the offense has continually failed to meet expectations this season, there are some glimmers of hope. Part of the Chiefs' improved offense success has come from limiting the wide receiver rotation. Skyy Moore and Marquez Valdez-Scantling are seeing fewer and fewer snaps, Rashee Rice is frequently a top snap-getter now, and Richie James and Kadarius Toney are mixing in occasionally. Adding Justyn Ross to this mixture seems just further complicate an already complicated situation.

Additionally, missing 6 weeks for a young receiver who is learning the offense and trying to build chemistry with the quarterback seems like a setback. Adding Ross back into the weekly rotation might be detrimental to an offense that needs any help it can get. He might be a healthy scratch the rest of the season unless there are injuries on special teams or receivers.

While Ross has been a fan favorite during his time in Kansas City, he still has a long way to go to become a reliable pass catcher. This season was about him making the team and finding a role on an NFL roster. The fact that the Chiefs held onto him through his suspension and arrest means they believe in his talent and think he's worth the wait. The remainder of this season needs to be about him staying healthy and out of the news while continuing to grow as a player.

Next year, Chiefs Kingdom can expect lots of changes in the wide receiver room. Perhaps Ross can be one of the few returnees next year who brings some chemistry with Patrick Mahomes and the offense. For now, Chiefs fans will likely have to wait another season to see Ross make a big impact.

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