Alabama WR Henry Ruggs III Might not be an Option for Broncos in First Round; Here's why
Knee-deep in draft season, the NFL Combine will be here next week! As the NFL world descends on the Indiana Convention Center in downtown Indianapolis, the information from the event in regards to medical checks, measurements, interviews, and testing will all trickle out and impact the narrative and stock on a multitude of draft prospects.
While there are a number of interesting positional groups this season with a number of interesting quarterbacks, top-end offensive tackle talent, and some unique top-of-the-class defensive players, no group will bring as much star-power and intrigue as that of the wide receiver class.
Regarded by many as possibly the best wide receiver class ever, in the least the best since the star-studded 2014 class, the wide receivers are set to dazzle in Indy. Despite the Denver Broncos' many needs going into the 2020 offseason — such as interior defensive line, cornerback, and offensive tackle — a chance at any of those ‘top’ players at those positions likely slipped away when Shelby Harris tipped a two-point conversion attempt in the waning moments of the season finale vs. the Oakland Raiders.
A win against the Raiders is always good, but the result meant the Broncos tumbled from the 10th overall selection to the 15th in the 2020 draft.
If there is one thing to know about the draft, it is to ‘expect the unexpected’. With that said falling five spots, specifically falling behind the likes of the Browns, Jets, Raiders, Colts, and Buccaneers, significantly limits the Broncos’ chances to land a blue-chip caliber offensive lineman (Jedrick Wills, Tristan Wirfs, Mekhi Becton) or defensive lineman (Derrick Brown or Javon Kinlaw) at 15 overall.
However, there still may be some blue-chip caliber players when Denver is on the clock. If the Broncos do end up keeping their own first-round selection, and don't trade back. Luckily for the Broncos, a star-studded but equally deep wide receiver class means the Broncos could have a real chance at a difference-maker to partner with emerging star Courtland Sutton and athletic freak Noah Fant.
Despite how talented and variant the 2020 wide receiver class is, there currently seems to be a consensus ‘top three’ at the position in Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb, and Henry Ruggs III. While the order of such depends on who you ask, to date, the Broncos at pick 15 have been mocked Ruggs III more than any other player, a remarkable 30.8% of mocks.
What makes Ruggs so unique and the reason he continually is mocked to the Broncos to this point? It was due to a conversation between NFL Networks’ Move The Sticks Podcast between Daniel Jeremiah and Bucky Brooks in regards to their top receivers before the Combine provides some context.
Bucky Brooks: “Henry Ruggs from Alabama is really really interesting because he has gas. He can run, he can do a lot of interesting things with the ball in his hands. I like the way that he plays. It’s just amazing to me that Alabama had three guys on the field that could just make it happen from anywhere on the field. Sometimes that can kind of dim each player’s light but when you look at Ruggs. I think Ruggs is not necessarily a number one receiver, but I think he is a high end number two receiver. Meaning that you play opposite someone that is kind of that big body guy but he brings the vertical element and some of that other stuff. He is a terrific player and a terrific prospect.”
Daniel Jeremiah: “We’ve talked about the idea of reverse engineering who are the good players in the draft and maybe asking defensive coaches to look at offensive players and offensive coaches to look at defensive players. I just have a feeling that if you gave this stack of receivers to defensive coordinators around the league and asked ‘who do you not want in your division?’ I got a feeling Henry Ruggs would be the first person they would list. They don’t want to deal with that. You don’t want to deal with that speed. That’s a problem. That is a PROBLEM for defenses. I think he’s got a chance at the Combine, we’re going to see he’s going to be a 4.2s something, I think he’s got a chance to get underneath John Ross. We will see if he can get down there. It’s stupid. It’s just ridiculous speed."
Brooks: “Yeah it’s ridiculous speed. You are right. The reason why defensive coordinators and defensive players don’t want to have deal with a guy like Ruggs is that his speed leads to explosive plays. We have seen in today’s NFL how big plays impact scoring. When you have a guy who can produce these ‘chunk plays’, these 40-yardplus plays at a moment’s notice, it is really really difficult. It changes the way you have to defend them. You have to keep a safety over top. It loosens the box. For a team that has a running threat… he would stretch the defense and make you pull that safety out of the box and create more running lanes. He’s a factor and he’s a weapon. I just love watching him on tape.”
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What it Means
There is a very real possibility that Ruggs III comes out of the Combine as the consensus WR1 and will not be available when the Broncos pick. From Pro Football Network’s Analyst and WR expert Brad Kelly, to Denver’s own Benjamin Allbright, the narrative of “Henry Ruggs as WR1" is picking up steam. If he tests like many are predicting, this wouldn’t be a shock.
Just looking across the landscape of the most explosive offenses in today’s NFL, specifically every single division winner in the AFC, there is a very common ingredient in an absolutely blazing wide receiver that helps dictate opposing coverage and makes life easier on their young quarterback.
With the Chiefs having Tyreek Hill (and Mecole Hardman), the Texans with Will Fuller V, the Ravens with Hollywood Brown, and the Bills with John Brown, finding someone who can decompress a defense both vertically and horizontally is not only a want but a must to keep up with the best in the Conference.
The Broncos already have an emerging star in Sutton and spent a first-round pick on Fant last season, but the addition of someone like Ruggs III could take the entire unit over the top. Team building isn’t just about patching holes and attacking weaknesses, but also adding to strengths and establishing an identity.
With Drew Lock set to start in 2020 and on his dirt-cheap rookie contract for the next three seasons, the time to lean into the offensive revolution is now.
Taking a wide receiver in round one may scare some, especially in a class as talent-rich at the position as the 2020 class appears to be, but no one can question Ruggs’ big play ability and speed. His presence would open up the offense and make everyone else better simply by being on the field because his big-play potential cannot be ignored.
He may not be the best receiver in the class in a vacuum, but given how he complements the pieces the Broncos already have, he just might be the best option for Denver and the key to unlocking the potential of the entire offense.