49ers NFL Draft Profile: WR Henry Ruggs III

Here's an in-depth look at what Ruggs does well, what he can improve on and how he fits the 49ers system.
Author:
Publish date:

The 49ers will enter day one of the NFL Draft with two picks at their disposal (No.13 and No.31 overall). Acquiring the 13th pick from the Indianapolis Colts in exchange for DeForest Buckner provides two things — gives them top draft capital to address the wide receiver need and provides them with additional cap space to fulfill other areas of the roster without Buckner's contract on the books. 

The wide receiver class is extraordinarily deep where Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch could wait until pick No. 31. However, the intrigue of grabbing a future star on the outside with pick No. 13 holds so much weight, it's hard to imagine them targeting a different position. 

They're likely set at the very least to get CeeDee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy or Henry Ruggs III. Any of the three would provide a huge jolt to the 49ers' offense, giving them a transcendent athlete for Shanahan to mold along with Deebo Samuel. 

Here's an in-depth look at what Ruggs does well, what he can improve on and how he fits the 49ers system. 

Strengths (+)

Speed: Ruggs is truly a track star playing football. Prior to the NFL Combine, many anticipated Ruggs to post a number close, if not break John Ross' 4.22 40-yard dash record. Ultimately, he came up just short, posting an official time of 4.27 seconds. Regardless of Ruggs falling short of the record, his speed will translate into the NFL as he should have no problem becoming one of the better deep threats in years to come.

Athleticism: His speed obviously plays into it but Ruggs displays other avenues that suit his game effectively. Ruggs' flexibility allows him to make adjustments to passes accordingly, giving him a solid catch radius. He has no problem starting and stopping whether he's running the intermediate route or dashing downfield. His twitchy efforts allow him to cause havoc for opposing cornerbacks as he's no stranger to making people miss. 

Run after catch: His run after catch ability exemplifies instant acceleration, making him a true "home run" threat in the open field. Ruggs has adequate vision when navigating through traffic that follows him throughout his intermediate to deep routes. He's purely electric after the catch. 

Negatives (–)

Physicality: His physicality with the ball in his hands is much different than how he operates while running his route or blocking. You would like to see his physical nature come out more consistently as he's heavily reliant on his burst to win at the point of attack. His physicality appears to be more of an area where if he shifted more attention to it, he would at the very least be serviceable to do so. 

Route tree: Ruggs has no issue with running crisp routes in and out of his breaks but rather his variation of routes is somewhat concerning. With Ruggs transitioning out of Alabama's high-strung offense where he was labeled as the number two option behind Jeudy, he may be able to showcase his full tool belt of routes with more asked from him besides just running primarily go routes as he did at Alabama. 

Blocking: Ruggs doesn't have any issues with engaging blocks against his opposition, however, he needs improvement in sticking his defender when helping out in the running game. His thin frame doesn't help his case with blocking but Ruggs doesn't project as someone who will be asked to block on a regular basis as his calling card is stretching the field vertically. 

How he fits the 49ers?

The 49ers already possess two physical pass-catchers with George Kittle and Deebo Samuel. Ruggs would be the perfect option for implementing a new wrinkle in Shanahan's offense as he can stretch the field with dynamic straight-line speed. 

Shanahan would be able to use Ruggs as his offensive chess piece, moving him inside at slot or pairing him opposite of Samuel outside the hashes. Ruggs gets the majority of attention for what he does on deep routes but in Shanahan's offense, he could also be utilized as a quality piece in the screen game to gather productive yards after the catch. 

In addition to Ruggs' versatility as a pass-catcher, he also enters the league with experience in the return game. In 2019, Ruggs averaged 23.8 yards per attempt when returning kicks for the Crimson Tide. If the 49ers end up being his landing spot, Ruggs could see time as their kick returner in year one and beyond.  

Pro comp: Tyreek Hill