NFL Prop Bet: How Many TDs will Henry Ruggs III Catch in 2020?

Henry Ruggs III was taken by the Las Vegas Raiders in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. How many touchdowns will he catch as a rookie?
Author:
Publish date:

The Las Vegas Raiders drafted speedy former Alabama Crimson Tide wide receiver Henry Ruggs III with the 12th overall pick of the 2020 NFL Draft. Ruggs was the first player taken at his position after sportsbooks projected him as the third-most likely player to accomplish that feat. 

Can Ruggs live up to lofty expectations and make an immediate impact for the Raiders in 2020? Click here to see how many yards he could rack up, but how many times can he reach the end zone as a rookie? 

FanDuel has set the following over/under on his 2020 touchdown total:

unnamed

Touchdown prop bets are a lot more fluky than yardage ones. One's skill set can help the touchdown-scoring process, but finding the end zone a certain amount of times isn't exactly an indicator or product of talent. Still, these are some of the most exhilarating future props bettors can wager on.  

Eight rookie pass-catchers scored five or more times in 2019. Excluding the handful of running backs who've done it, 33 rookie wide receivers or tight ends have caught at least five touchdown passes since 2014. Getting to five scores doesn't seem so difficult, so why does FanDuel have the juice on under 4.5 for Ruggs?

For starters, only two Raiders pass-catchers reached the five-touchdown plateau last season: wide receiver Tyrell Williams (6) and tight end Foster Moreau (5). Another factor is the low touchdown totals quarterback Derek Carr has posted over the last three seasons. After starting his career with 81 touchdowns in his first three seasons (27 per season), Carr hasn't thrown for more than 22 in a season since (averaging 20.7 TDs each year from 2017-2019). If that trend continues for a fourth consecutive season, Ruggs needs to catch about 24% of Carr's total touchdown passes to hit the over.

The final factor is how much Carr spreads the ball around and his penchant for targeting tight ends. Over the last two seasons, only Williams has scored more than four touchdowns from the wide receiver position. Tight end Jared Cook led all Raiders with six touchdowns in 2018, with the top wide receiver (Jordy Nelson) having just three scores. The last time multiple wide receivers had at least five touchdowns was in 2017 when Michael Crabtree had eight, and Amari Cooper had seven.

The question then becomes, is Carr a fundamentally different player now than he was earlier in his career, or has the lack of true wide receiver weapons impacted his numbers? My money's on the latter. 

The lack of receiving talent since Cooper and Crabtree left is an issue. Carr's touchdown percentage when Cooper and Crabtree were on the field hovered around 5%. Over the last two seasons (even including Cooper's six games in Oakland in 2018), his touchdown percentage is down to 3.75%. That drop equates to about 6.6 touchdowns per 533 attempts, the number Carr's averaged over the last two years.

If the addition of Ruggs and a healthy Williams can give their quarterback two legit threats on the outside with Hunter Renfrow and Darren Waller working the middle of the field, Carr could return to that 5% touchdown rate and throw 27 or 28 in 2020. If he does, Ruggs catching five comes out to fewer than 19% of Carr's total passing touchdowns, a much more manageable number to reach. Given the fact that Ruggs' blazing speed is a mismatch alone, I lean to the over on this prop at 1:1 odds.

The Play: OVER 4.5 touchdowns (+100)

MORE FROM SI GAMBLING: