Ross Cockrell (born August 6, 1991) is an American football corner back for the Carolina Panthers of the National Football League (NFL). He was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft. He played college football at Duke. Cockrell attended Charlotte Latin High School in Charlotte, North Carolina, where he was selected to the all-conference and all-state teams twice. In his senior season, he had 29 receptions for 459 yards and 11 TDs while posting 34 tackles and three INTs helping lead Latin to the state championship game. He also ran for the Charlotte Latin High School track team. He won the 100 meters at the 2008 CISAA championships, with a career-best time of 10.88 seconds. Also a top competitor in the 400 meters, he won the NCISAA 3A State championships with a personal-best time of 48.42 seconds. Considered a three-star recruit by Rivals.com, he was rated as the 76th best corner back prospect of his class. In 2010, Cockrell was selected to the Freshman All-America third team by Phil Steele in his freshman season. He was named to the Academic All-ACC as a Freshman. In his sophomore season, he was a recipient of the Sonny Falcone Iron Duke Award. He was an Honorable mention All-America by Sports Illustrated in his junior season. Cockrell was selected to the first team All-ACC following his junior season. He won the Willis Aldridge Award following his junior season in 2011. He was selected to the first team Capital One Academic All-District III also in his junior season. Also in his junior season, He was selected to the Academic All-ACC. He was selected to the consensus preseason first team All-ACC by Sporting News, Phil Steele’s College Football Preview, Lindy’s Sports, Athlon Sports and USA Today prior to his senior season. On May 16, 2013, Cockrell was named to Lott IMPACT Trophy Watch List prior to his senior season. Entering the 2014 NFL Draft, many analysts and scouts had Cockrell projected as a third or fourth round draft choice. He was described as agile, consistent, aware, with good anticipation and a good feel for the game. The main issues that worried scouts were physical attributes like having small hands, a skinny lower body, thin frame, short arms, and his lack of strength during press coverage and taking on blocks. He attended the NFL combine in Indianapolis and was able to perform all the drills well. Although he had a good showing at the combine, Cockrell decided to participate in all the events during Duke’s Pro Day. He was able to improve on all of his combine numbers, including a sub-4.40 in the 40-yard dash, 12 bench presses of 225 lbs, and a 39-inch vertical. Cockrell was selected in the fourth round (109th overall) of the 2014 NFL Draft by the Buffalo Bills. It made him the highest Duke football player drafted since Lennie Friedman with the 61st selection of the 1999 NFL Draft. On May 15, 2014, the Bills signed Cockrell to a four-year, $2.68 million rookie contract.
On August 31, 2015, Cockrell was released by the Bills. On September 5, 2015, Cockrell signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Despite signing with the team five days before the opening game of the 2015 NFL season, he received significant playing time that year, beginning in the Steelers’ second regular season game against the San Francisco 49ers. On October 1, 2015, he intercepted his first career pass from Baltimore Ravens’ quarterback Joe Flacco and returned it for 37-yards. The following game, he collected a season-high 7 solo tackles against the San Diego Chargers. On the year, he played 62% of the Steelers’ defensive snaps. During the regular season he recorded 44 tackles, 11 passes defensed, two interceptions, one forced fumble, and recovered one fumble. In his first season with the Steelers, Cockrell played in 15 regular season games, and started in seven of those. On January 22, 2016, the Steelers signed Cockrell to a one-year contract extension worth $600,000. He began the season as the Steeler’s second corner back, opposite longtime veteran William Gay. In the season opener against the Washington Redskins, he made four combined tackles in the Steelers 38-16 victory. On October 9, 2016, Cockrell collected four solo tackles and three pass deflections during the Steelers 31-13 rout of the New York Jets. The following week, he made a season-high five solo tackles and two pass deflections in a 15-30 loss to the Miami Dolphins. On November 13, 2016, he made four solo tackles, an assisted tackle, and a pass deflection during a 35-30 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. Three days later, he was fined $9,115 for a late hit against Lucky Whitehead during the loss to the Cowboys. On December 25, 2016, Cockrell recorded a season-high seven combined tackles as the Steelers defeated the Baltimore Ravens 31-27 and clinched the AFC North. He finished the 2016 season with a career-high 62 combined tackles, 14 pass deflections, and 16 regular season starts. On January 8, 2017, Cockrell started in his first career postseason game and made eight solo tackles in a 30-12 AFC Wild Card Game victory over the Miami Dolphins. On September 2, 2017, Cockrell was traded to the New York Giants after the Pittsburgh Steelers signed corner back Joe Haden after his release by the Cleveland Browns. On March 23, 2018, Cockrell signed a two-year contract with the Carolina Panthers.