Las Vegas Raiders selected Henry Ruggs III in the 2020 NFL Draft despite his lack of production at the college level. Putting his numbers in context though, the Alabama product compares well to a current NFL receiver.
How does the new Raiders’ wide receiver fare?
One of the biggest concerns regarding Ruggs coming out of college were the amount of catches he had in his career. Although he has blazing speed and great hands, he ended the season with 40 catches for 747 yards and seven touchdown. He was basically the third option in an offense that featured Jerry Jeudy and Devonta Smith.
One theory why Ruggs didn’t get as many targets as his teammates could be the plethora of playmakers Alabama had in 2019. Regardless of the reason, he always made the most out of them. He averaged 17.5 yards per reception and scored on 24 of the 98 catches he had in his career. That’s almost one touchdown every four passes.
Furthermore, Pro Football Focus gave Ruggs a 153.3 passer rating when targeted, the highest in a single season since 2014.
Highest passer rating when targeted in a singe season since 2014:— PFF College (@PFF_College) June 19, 2020
1. Henry Ruggs III (2019) – 154.4
2. Terry McLaurin (2018) – 153.3
3. DeVonta Smith (2019) – 152.5 pic.twitter.com/jgEAlh0xpz
Ruggs 2019 NFL Comparison
There’s something interesting about that list and that is Terry McLaurin, who like Ruggs, had limited production in college. The Redskins sophomore showed wide receivers don’t need to have big numbers in college to be effective at the pro level. In three years at Ohio State, he had 75 catches for 1,251 and 19 touchdowns. Likewise, he averaged 15.0 per catch in 2017 and 20.0 in 2018.
McLaurin’s production in college resembles Ruggs’ 98 catches for 1,716 yards. Moreover, The Ohio State Product didn’t have more than 35 catches in his three years with the Buckeyes. That didn’t seem to deter the Redskins from drafting him in the second round in 2019. There, he had 58 catches for 919 yards and seven touchdown. That wasn’t bad at all, considering they had mediocre quarterback play and a poor supporting cast. That won’t be Ruggs case in Las Vegas.
The Raiders won’t ask Ruggs to instantly turn their offense around. Even though he can be the speedster they need, they have a few players that could help Ruggs ease into action. Wide Receiver Tyrell Williams is healthy and Hunter Renfrow should continue where he left off in 2019. In the same manner, tight ends Darren Waller, Foster Moreau and veteran tight end will have opposing teams defend the middle of the field. That will likely take some pressure (and coverage) from Ruggs, who will be able to operate on the outside, where he can make the most damage.
Ruggs positives outweigh this lack of production at the collegiate level. As McLaurin showed last year, wide receivers can thrive in the NFL in spite of not getting enough opportunities in college. The Raiders surely think that’s the case.
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Top Photo: Vasha Hunt