TCU's Ross Blacklock combines 'physicality' with intriguing rush potential
Latest in a Packers Prospects series looking at players Green Bay could select in the April 23-25 NFL draft.
GREEN BAY - If not for a torn Achilles in 2018, Ross Blacklock might be off the board long before the Green Bay Packers are on the clock with the 30th pick.
Before the injury, Blacklock had flashed potential as a disruptive interior pass rusher, dropping his hand in the dirt and harassing quarterbacks. He had two sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss as a redshirt freshman at TCU in 2017. There was every expectation Blacklock would build on that season.
Then the torn Achilles cost him all of 2018. Blacklock used his off year as best he could, trimming 25 pounds. When he returned last fall, he showed impressive athleticism as a first-team all-Big 12 selection, enough to potentially crack the first round this spring.
Blacklock comes from a basketball pedigree — his father, Jimmy, toured with the Harlem Globetrotters — and it shows on the football field. At 6-3 and 290 pounds, Blacklock has impressive quickness and agility for a five-tech defensive end. He could give the Packers something they’ve long needed, an athletic pass rusher to line up over offensive tackles in tandem with nose guard Kenny Clark.
The injury history comes with some concern. Blacklock will need to stay healthy at the next level, and with only two years of college football experience, he’ll enter the NFL fundamentally raw. But that torn Achilles might be the only reason the Packers have a chance to draft him.
Age next season: 22.
Combine measurables: 4.9 40, 29-inch vertical leap, 107-inch broad jump.
Stats: 40 tackles, 9 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks.
Pro Football Focus analysis: Blacklock has just two full seasons of playing experience at TCU due to missing all of 2018 with an injury. He was relatively average in 2017, posting a 68.9 overall grade, but really improved coming back from injury in 2019. Blacklock’s 81.5 overall grade ranked among the 30 best in the FBS and is 89.5 run-defense grade ranked seventh. As a pass rusher, Blacklock was above average for his position, but still has a ways to go. TCU ran a defensive scheme with an emphasis on using stunts, and that’s where a lot of Blacklock’s production came from. His win rate was over 3% higher on stunts, and his pressure rate was under 10% when they didn’t execute a stunt. It’s a tough evaluation as a result of, but the potential is there.
Draftniks say: “Flashes menacing disruptive qualities as a gap seeker, but is just ordinary when forced to sit and take on blocks. Blacklock rebounded from a 2018 Achilles injury and showed off basketball quickness that was often too much for a single blocker. However, his technique and hand usage need work, as he’s inconsistent holding the point and keeping his feet. He’s a hit-or-miss run defender, but he’s a relentless pass rusher with elite lateral quickness and change of direction to exploit interior galoots and open pathways to the pocket. Blacklock needs development as a one-gapping three-technique with rare movement talent and intriguing rush potential.”
Quotable: “Just the hittin’, the strength, the power — everything that you have to put into football. I always used to foul out of basketball. I’d come off football season and go straight to basketball. I’d come aggressive, and I was like, ‘Dang, this is just too soft for me sometimes.’ But it’s a good sport. I’m glad I got into it. But I just like the physicality of (football). You’ve got to be tough.” — Ross Blacklock on why he chose football over basketball.