Henry Ruggs III Validating His First Round Status Will Be Raiders’ Key

Wide receiver Henry Ruggs III will have to validate his first-round selection if the Las Vegas Raiders hope to make any noise.

The Silver and Black’s biggest offensive weakness was exposed in 2019 after a diva went off the rails and injuries decimated what remained. The Antonio Brown experiment never took off, leaving the Raiders devoid of a true number one receiver. Tyrell Williams performed well in the early going, finding the endzone often, unfortunately, plantar fasciitis thwarted his season. Rookie Hunter Renfrow showed flashes of brilliance as he too battled injuries, validating his selection by general manager Mike Mayock.

Essentially, the Raiders’ wide receiver corps was thin despite what it was presented at the beginning of the season. To alleviate this, both Mayock and head coach Jon Gruden used the 12th overall pick on Henry Ruggs III. The former Alabama wideout has gotten plenty of media attention as well as praise in this slow offseason.

Related: Raiders Presser: WR Tyrell Williams Revitalized Coming Into 2020 Season

Will Ruggs Prove Raiders Made the Right Call?

Ben Linsey of Pro Football Focus recently put a spotlight on what the NFL’s 32 rookie classes need to do in 2020. For the Raiders, Linsey believes Ruggs has to show he was the right pick from the outset. This is especially true since he was the first receiver off the board on draft day. The Raiders could’ve had any of the receivers they would’ve desired, the other being CeeDee Lamb and Jerry Jeudy. Despite that, it was Ruggs who received the call on draft day from Raiders brass.

“It’s a small risk on the part of the Raiders, as there is less known with Ruggs than with Jeudy or Lamb thanks to somewhat limited college production on a crowded Alabama offense, but there is still plenty of reason to believe that Ruggs was a good selection at the 11th overall pick.”

The argument could be made that both Jeudy and Lamb were more polished and complete prospects. In the end, it was Ruggs’ speed that made the difference. The stagnant Raiders offense needed someone who could stretch the field and open up things for Derek Carr. Well, now they have that with Ruggs. Linsey does make a point on Ruggs’ limited college production as he was not your prototypical number one wide receiver at Alabama. Despite the apparent lack of production, when Ruggs did get the opportunity, he made the most of it. In fact, numbers for Alabama quarterbacks reflect that as Linsey points out.

“Over the past two seasons, quarterbacks averaged an absurd 12 yards per attempt when targeting Ruggs.”

Will Carr Take More Shots Downfield?

“The Raiders need to see signs of him growing into a top option in the passing game as a rookie, not just a speedster. The route-running chops and ball skills are there for him to do that. Convincing Derek Carr to take more downfield shots with big-time separation deep would be a win, as well.”

Drafting Ruggs will only end up being the right decision if he’s used properly. If Gruden insists on running a conservative “dink and dunk” offense, Ruggs’ speed will be negated. The other concern for the Raiders should be regarding their quarterback, will Carr take more shots downfield? Carr’s accuracy is highly underrated and one of the best, but will it translate into bombs for Ruggs past 20 yards? Only time will tell. All things considered, Ruggs will have to validate his selection and prove the Raiders made the right call back in April.

You May Also Like: Raiders HC Jon Gruden Closely Evaluating and Giving Reps To Newcomers

*Top Photo: Credit/Alabama Athletics

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