by Tom LaMarre
The Las Vegas Raiders, looking for a go-to wide receiver for quarterback Derek Carr, selected speedy Henry Ruggs of Alabama with the 12th pick of the 2020 NFL Draft on Thursday night.
Seven picks later with a pick the Raiders got from the Chicago Bears in a trade for linebacker Khalil Mack shortly before the start of last season, they went for cornerback Damon Arnette of Ohio State.
The 6-foot, 190-pound Ruggs was timed in 4.27 seconds for the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, the third-fastest at the event since electronic timing began in 1999.
Ruggs, who is passing up his senior year with the Crimson Tide, was the most explosive in a talented corps of receivers quarterback Tua Tagovailoa had at his disposal, and caught 98 passes for 1,716 yards and 24 touchdowns in three seasons at Alabama.
As a sophomore, he caught 46 passes for 741 yards, a 16.1-yard average, and 11 TDs, and last season he made 40 catches for 746 yards, an 18.6-yard average, and seven scores. He also scored last season on an 81-yard pass play and a 75-yard run.
“I think what people lose sight of is this kid has got natural hands,” Daniel Jeremiah of the NFL Network said. “He has outstanding hands. He only dropped one ball this year. He attacks it. He trusts his hands.”
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.
Ruggs was the first in a talented group of wide receivers taken off the board in this year’s draft and was the third Alabama player selected, after the Miami Dolphins chose Tagovailoa with the fifth pick and the Cleveland Browns picked tackle Jedrick Wills Jr. at No. 10.
The Denver Broncos drafted Ruggs’ wide receiver mate with the Crimson Tide, Jerry Jeudy, with the 15th choice.
The 6-foot, 195-pound Arnette made 140 tackles, including 104 solo and four for losses, in addition breaking up 22 passes and making five interceptions—one that he returned 95 yards for a touchdown—in four seasons with the Buckeyes.
“I’m a little surprised he went this high, but he’s a very physical, competitive cornerback who can find the football,” the NFL Network’s Jeremiah said.
After his senior season in which he played with a broken wrist, Arnette was named second team All-Big Ten Conference after being an honorable mention selection the previous two years.
Arnette got plenty of action playing opposite cornerback Jeff Okudah, a unanimous All-American selected with the third pick of the draft by the Detroit Lions.
The Raiders will give Arnette a chance to start opposite Trayvon Mullen next season.
The draft continues on Friday night, but the Raiders presently have no picks in the second round, but do have three in the third, one in the fourth and another in the fifth round.