The Las Vegas Raiders took Henry Ruggs III with the 12th overall pick of the 2020 NFL Draft, making him the first player off the board in the uber-talented wide receiver class.
Sportsbooks had Ruggs as the third-most likely receiver to be taken first at his position, behind Alabama Crimson Tide teammate Jerry Jeudy (Denver Broncos, pick No. 15) and Oklahoma Sooners' CeeDee Lamb (Dallas Cowboys, pick No. 17).
Can Ruggs make an immediate impact for the Raiders in 2020? If so, how many yards could he put up? Bovada has set the following over/under on his rookie receiving yard total:
As of May 1, 800.5 yards is the second-highest rookie wide receiver total behind only Jeudy (850.5). Ruggs' total is tied with the Philadelphia Eagles' Jalen Reagor and the Minnesota Vikings' Justin Jefferson. Can Ruggs cross the 800-yard threshold?
Last season, three rookies managed to do that: Tennessee's A.J. Brown (1,051), Washington's Terry McLaurin (919), and Seattle's D.K. Metcalf (900). In the cases of Brown and McLaurin, they quickly became the top receiving option on their respective teams as the target leader. While Metcalf trailed Tyler Lockett in targets, he still had a rookie-leading 100.
In 2018, only Atlanta's Calvin Ridley eclipsed the 800-yard mark among rookie receivers (821). JuJu Smith-Schuster (917) and Cooper Kupp (869) were the only ones to do it in 2017, and exactly one wide receiver did it in 2016 (Michael Thomas) and 2015 (Amari Cooper).
Can the highest-drafted wide receiver finish with the highest yardage total?
Ruggs can be a horizontal and vertical field stretcher that lines up primarily on the outside. He has blazing speed and averaged more than 16 yards per reception in all three of his seasons at Alabama. He has good hands and all the tools to make a quick impact on a Raiders team in need of a game-changing pass-catcher. However, it's not easy for a rookie wide receiver to put up big numbers right away, and there are some obstacles in Ruggs' way.
The first obstacle is one we can't quite quantify. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, offseason programs for rookies (and everyone) are abnormal. Even if the NFL regular season starts on time, it's likely that there will be less on-field practice time for all players heading into the season than is customary. That could cause a slight delay in how effective some rookies could be out of the gate.
The biggest factor is where he fits into a Raiders offense that has mid-level talent volume. Ruggs projects to be the most prolific player in Las Vegas (sans running back Josh Jacobs), but Tyrell Williams, Darren Waller, and Hunter Renfrow are all more than capable options that will be productive. Waller, a tight end, led the 2019 Raiders in targets (117), receptions (90) and receiving yards (1,145)—he was the only Raider to eclipse 700 receiving yards. Williams led the team in yards per catch (15.5) and receiving touchdowns (6) despite dealing with an injury for a large portion of the season. Both of those players, and Renfrow in his second season, will gobble up the majority of Derek Carr's targets. How many will be left for Ruggs?
Aside from Metcalf, the highest target mark for a rookie last season with Deebo Samuel's 81 on the San Francisco 49ers. Behind him was Baltimore's Marquise Brown and Renfrow at 71 targets. Let's use those numbers as reference points.
If Ruggs gets 71 targets in 2020, he'll need to average 11.28 yards per target to reach 801 receiving yards. Last season, only two wide receivers in the NFL had a higher YPT mark (Brown and Stefon Diggs). If Ruggs gets 81 targets he'll need to average 9.89 yards per target to reach the 801-yard mark, which is almost identical to the YPT numbers Samuel and McLaurin put up as rookies last season.
Essentially, this bet comes down to how many targets you believe Ruggs gets as a rookie. His game-breaking ability may lead to some 4/110/2 outcomes, but you're betting on Ruggs getting five-plus targets per game, every game, for 16 games while being as explosive as Samuel and McLaurin were just to get to the posted total. Sure, Ruggs could do it—and, quite frankly, I hope he does because he's such a fun player to watch—but the safer play is on the under.
The Play: UNDER 800.5 yards (-145)
Henry Ruggs Fantasy Rankings
- Dynasty WR rank: WR25
- Rookie rank: 10th
- Projected Rookie Pick ADP: 1.10
- Redraft WR rank: WR37
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