Henry Ruggs III

What Are Realistic Expectations for Rookie Henry Ruggs III?

When the Las Vegas Raiders drafted Henry Ruggs III everyone drew a sigh of relief. That being said, what should head coach Jon Gruden and Raider Nation realistically expect?

The expectations for a first-round wide receiver are tremendous, and the Raiders are all too familiar with this thanks to Amari Cooper and Darrius Heyward-Bey. These two, in their own way, failed to live up to the hype. However, after last year’s struggles it was more than evident general manager Mike Mayock was going to have to at least pick one in the first round. Out of the consensus “big three”, it was Henry Ruggs III who got his name called by commissioner Roger Goodell. With the pressure now on his shoulders to deliver, what should the expectations be in his rookie year?

Related: Raiders surprise everyone with the 12th pick in the draft

One man that’s very familiar with Ruggs and has a good idea of what to expect would be his college coach, the legendary Nick Saban. In a recent interview with Eddie Paskal on the team’s official website, Saban candidly spoke about Ruggs, as both a person and player. Regarding the latter, Saban said, “I think first of all you’re getting a great person”, which shouldn’t come as a surprise as Mayock has emphasized character and future with his draft picks. Gone are the days of picking talent and upside over character, and Ruggs will add to that per Saban’s endorsement.

As far as his talent and abilities, Saban had plenty of praise for his former wide receiver.

“You’re getting a guy that’s a great competitor, really hard worker, and a very, very explosive, talented guy. He’s got great hands, great speed, he’s a great special teams player, which is unusual sometimes for guys that play receiver. He’s a gunner, he can cover kickoffs, and he’s got a lot of mental and physical toughness about him — relative to the position.”

Nothing But Praise for Henry Ruggs III

Saban dropped a lot of tidbits that could be indicators of what Raider Nation might expect from Ruggs. Everyone knows about his speed, that’s one of the main reasons he was drafted, something sorely missing in the Raiders passing game in 2019. Along with that, Saban made sure to point out Ruggs’ work ethic and competitive drive, all of which has head coach Jon Gruden salivating after dealing with diva Antonio Brown last offseason.

On a final note, something that’s interesting is the possibility of playing Ruggs on special teams. His pro comparison has been Tyreek Hill, who has played and excelled at that with the Kansas City Chiefs. If the Raiders are considering this, Saban certainly knows it could be a smart way to utilize that speed. For now, without camp or a clearer picture of what the offense will look like, it’ll be up to fans entrusting Gruden to maximize this speedster’s talent.

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*Top Photo Vasha Hunt/Associated Press

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