Henry Ruggs III was the first wide receiver taken in the 2020 NFL Draft, to the surprise of many. Typically considered the third-best wide receiver in the class, teammate Jerry Jeudy and Oklahoma's CeeDee Lamb were often mocked ahead of Ruggs leading up to Thursday night.
Being the top player chosen at your position is nice. Landing with a Las Vegas Raiders team that is a tremendous fit for your skill set is even better. I love the landing spot and I even mocked him there a few weeks before the draft, saying:
For a brief moment the ghost of Al Davis returns to the Raiders' war room and makes this selection. No wide receiver has been hyped more this offseason than Ruggs. His 4.27 40-yard dash at the combine only accelerated the hype train. The Raiders need another pass-catching weapon to pair with Tyrell Williams, Hunter Renfrow and Darren Waller. Ruggs just feels like a Raiders pick and it's not like it's a massive reach.
Some question Ruggs' ability to be a true No. 1 WR at the NFL level because he's not incredibly physical, doesn't consistently win 50-50 balls and needs to track deep balls better. Those feel like nitpicks, though. Ruggs is a game-breaker with tremendous speed, deceptive route-running techniques, good hands and solid special teams prowess. He's a home-run threat every time he runs a slant route.
What does that mean for fantasy football managers?
Ruggs steps into a Jon Gruden offense that has the potential to be very dynamic. Running back and 2019 first-round pick Josh Jacobs returns healthy after dealing with a shoulder injury late last season. Tyrell Williams, who was also dealing with an injury (foot) in the latter half of the season, also returns healthy as a constant vertical threat that finished last season tied for 15th in average yards per catch (15.5). Hunter Renfrow enters his sophomore season following a solid rookie campaign as the clear safety blanket slot option. Tight end Darren Waller broke out big time and looks to follow up on his 90/1145/3 season.
I see Ruggs as both a horizontal and vertical field stretcher that lines up primarily on the outside, but can move into the slot in four-wide sets and as needed otherwise. He averaged more than 16 yards per reception in all three of his seasons at Alabama and could challenge Williams for the highest mark on the Raiders. Plus, he might even add a return touchdown or two to the mix.
The Raiders were without a big-play receiver last season after the Antonio Brown fiasco, but Ruggs figures to fit in with Carr’s receiving corps that includes Tyrell Williams, Hunter Renfrow and talented tight ends Darren Waller and Foster Moreau.
Defensive coordinators won't be able to double-cover Ruggs if they intend to stop Jacobs and contain both Williams and Waller. Ruggs' addition moves quarterback Derek Carr in mid-QB2 territory as a potential top 20 option. Williams is a mid-to-late WR4 with Renfrow checking in as a solid WR5. Waller remains a top 8 TE with no real value change.
A lot of time, research and number-crunching goes into pre-fantasy draft rankings that can't be replicated overnight, but Ruggs earns the top rookie WR ranking for me. He's a low-end WR3 that should come off the board in Round 7, around pick 75.
The comparisons to Tyreek Hill or Ruggs being "Tyreek Hill light" are oversimplified can't be avoided. However, it's at least an OK point of reference for what the potential upside one day can be. It's not easy for a rookie wide receiver to make an immediate impact, but Ruggs has all the tools to make it happen on a team in need of a game-changing pass-catcher.
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