Were it not for a freak injury early in fall camp in 2018, Ross Blacklock would likely be a lock for Thursday night’s first round of the NFL Draft. Even with the injury, and the dip in production that followed, Blacklock’s performance, measurables, and intangibles might still be enough to have the big guy hear his name called amongst the first 32 selections of the event.
An athletic freak, Blacklock has elite bloodlines; as has been well-reported, his father is a former Harlem Globetrotter and coach, a Hall of Honor member at UT. He was dunking a basketball at an age when most of us were still trying to figure out the whole shoe-tying thing, and the three sport high school athlete probably would be probably be focused on hitting jumpers instead of quarterbacks if it weren’t for an intrinsic desire to level people and a thought process that basketball was a little “too soft”. He was an all-state swimmer and a Junior Olympics participant in the long jump. He caught, pitched, played first base, and hit monster home runs as a youth. He was a top 100 player in the state when he gave up the diamond for the field.
Standing 6’3” and weighing in at 290 pounds, Blacklock impressed with a 4.9 40 in Indy, and finished in the top 20 of several events. Joe Marino of The Draft Network said it simply: “he’s got the goods. Juice, power, size and a motor to make plays.” Yahoo’s Eric Edholm added “disruptive flashes can be found nearly every game. Displays a relentlessness that only a few DL in this class possess. Gets off the snap and is the aggressor more often than not. Can win with quickness and power. Burrows his way through blocks and makes impact felt without stats to back it up. Athleticism is fascinating.”
Facing constant double teams in college and used in an interior role, Blacklock has a chance to shine at the next level, where opposing offensive lines won’t be able to shift so much of their attention toward him. Despite the fact that he rarely saw a clean lane while at TCU, Blacklock still managed to accumulate 67 tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss, and 5.5 sack in just two seasons of on-field action. He showed the ability to transform his body, playing at as much as 330 pounds before slimming down post-achilles injury. He has an unteachable drive and has proven that he can managed rehab and has the self-discipline to overcome injury and obstacle.
That injury history becomes a different story in 2020; what would normally likely be no big deal because a big unknown in these uncertain times, when teams don’t have in-person access to the athletes or the ability to have them examined by in-house medical professionals. Though he played free and clear in 2019, NFL teams are some of the most suspicious groups around, and that fact alone might cause the talented DT to slip out of the Thursday night selections.
An All-American as a redshirt freshman, Blacklock was an All-Big 12 selection as a junior, pushing him to declare for the NFL Draft with a year of eligibility remaining. But it’s not the just the money or the love of the game that he’s chasing, it’s the game-day vibe. “I’ve always had the passion and that part has never changed over the years. My favorite part of game day is the smell. Game day has a specific smell. I can’t describe it; it just smells like game day. I guess it’s probably the barbecue and all that. I smell all that when we walk to the stadium. I know something’s happenin’. The vibe. It’s not a normal day.”
Blacklock has been linked to Minnesota (who seems to have an interested in every player that wears purple), San Francisco, Green Bay, Tennessee, Seattle, and Kansas City, among others. Most mocks have him pegged to go late in the first round or early in the second. Wherever he lands, Big Ross will make a big impact early at the next level, he’s built to do exactly that.
The NFL Draft begins Thursday evening with round one. Rounds two and three will take place Friday, and the final four rounds Saturday. All will take place virtually due to Coronavirus precautions.