Will Henry Ruggs Break Out?
By: Dave Browne
The Las Vegas Raiders surprised the football world by selecting Henry Ruggs III with the twelth overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft. It is no shock that Ruggs was selected in the first round of the draft. He is an elite talent from the Alabama football factory.
The consensus going into the draft was that his Alabama teammate Jerry Jeudy or CeeDee Lamb would be the first wide receiver taken. If there was any team that would take Ruggs over Jeudy or Lamb it would be the Raiders. This was a throwback Raiders pick. A draft pick that would make late owner Al Davis proud. If you could hurl a pigskin 75 yards or run a 4.30 40 time, you’d be on the Raiders’ radar. Ruggs ran a 4.27 40 time in Indianapolis last year.
Ruggs’ struggles in his first year in the NFL are not unusual. It usually takes wide receivers up to three seasons to take their game to the next level. Many will point to the success of fellow rookie wide receivers in Minnesota rookie Justin Jefferson and Dallas’s CeeDee Lamb. However, more often than not their success are usually outliers.
Ruggs had only 26 receptions on 43 targets for 452 yards as a rookie. He had a catch percentage of 60.5 which is very pedestrian. The big plays he advertised at Alabama didn’t translate in his first year as a pro.
So how does this affect Henry Ruggs in the fantasy football community? For starters we need to dive into who Ruggs is. Here’s what we know about Ruggs thus far if we followed him in college and his rookie season.
- He is fast. Very fast. Fantasy football players love speed and playmaking ability.
- In college he only had 90 receptions in 40 career games.
- He had 24 touchdown receptions
- He is not a polished route runner.
- His smaller frame of 5-11, 188 pounds may limit his catch radius or ability to win one-one battles.
It’s safe to assume that Ruggs will never be an alpha wide receiver like other wide receivers in the league. He will in all likelihood not get enough targets to garner the alpha status. As you look at what he did at Alabama, he scored 24 times on just 98 receptions. Ruggs will make his NFL living on the big plays.
Rookie season aside, what is Ruggs’ long term projection look to be? Here are a few players who have the same type of profile as Ruggs.
- DeSean Jackson- The speedster (4.35 40) out of Cal has made a living off of big plays both as a wide receiver and punt returner. He is a five-time 1,000 yard receiver with 64 career touchdowns. His career has been plagued by injuries but he is an electrifying talent. He had an impressive rookie campaign with 62 receptions for 912 and two touchdowns.
- John Ross- Ross holds the combine 40 yard dash record with a blazing 4.22 time. Cincinnati raced as fast to the podium to select Ross in the 2017 Draft with the 9th overall pick. Injuries, poor play and healthy inactives have many labeling the speedster as a ‘bust’ since entering the league. Ross has flashed big play ability with 10 touchdowns in 27 career games. However, he only has a 51 receptions for 733 yards in those games. He will look to revive his career elsewhere as a free agent this off-season. As a rookie he played 3 games with no receptions.
- Darrius Heyward-Bey- Heyward-Bey ironically enough was drafted by the Raiders as the number seven overall pick in 2009. He came out of Maryland as a game breaker with his 4.30 speed. Unfortunately, his skill-set did not translate to NFL success. He had a career year of 64 receptions for 975 yards in 2011 but was never able to capitalize off of that successful season. He managed to be in the NFL for 10 years in spite of his inefficiency as an NFL wide receiver. He had 9 receptions for 124 yards as a rookie.
- Tyreek Hill- The ‘Cheetah’ is like a cheat code in Madden, except he is the real deal. The 4.29 speedster is unlike any wide receiver we’ve seen in a long time. He’s already amassed 5,391 yards and 47 touchdowns in one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL. At just 27 years of age by the start of the 2021 season, he has a lot of productive years left. He had 61 receptions for 593 yards and 6 touchdowns as a rookie.
- Tedd Ginn Jr- Ginn is a 5’11, 180 pound veteran receiver. He ran a 4.28 40 time. Ginn has had a solid, albeit unspectacular career. He’s managed to play 14 years in the NFL on 6 different teams while never eclipsing 800 yards in a season. He did however catch 10 touchdown passes in 2015 with Carolina. Those 10 touchdowns alone are 30.3% of his career touchdowns. He finished with 34 receptions and 420 yards his rookie campaign with the Dolphins.
So let’s get down to what matters. What is his fantasy football outlook look like in 2021?
In spite of the sluggish start to his career we should give him the benefit of the doubt. He plays in an exciting offense with targets to go around, especially if wide receiver Nelson Agholor (82 targets) prices himself out of Las Vegas. We saw Raiders QB Derek Carr take more chances down field in 2020. If Carr continues to sling it, and Ruggs progresses he could be an exciting player in the 2021 season.
Ruggs should benefit from a more normal off-season as the 2020 off-season was one of the most bizarre that we’ve ever seen. Those on-field repetitions will be more rewarding than those zoom meetings. He also dealt with nagging hamstring and knee injuries which plagued his success during his rookie campaign.
This list of comparables to Ruggs have had a variance of success in the league. These are the classic boom or bust wide receivers that fantasy football players salivate over. He in all likelihood will not have the same success as a guy like Tyreek Hill. People love the narrative that teams need to find the next Tyreek Hill. There is only one Tyreek Hill. Expecting a guy to have that type success is unfounded.
We will celebrate his career if it ends up being anything like Jackson’s career. If he has a career like Heyward-Bey or John Ross, fantasy football players will not be happy.
We should be looking to buy Ruggs as a WR 3/4 for the 2021 fantasy football season. The absolute best case scenario is that he falls in the WR 25-36 range. He will in all likelihood fall into the WR 4 category in the 37-48 range. Worst case scenario he falls out of the Top 50 entirely. This is the type of mixed results you get with a guy like Ruggs. If you go into your draft with modified expectations, you could reap the benefits of drafting a speedster such as Ruggs in the 9th or 10th round. If the lottery ticket hits, he could be a league winner for a lot of fantasy football fanatics.