Henry Ruggs is an overrated WR in the AFC West
Daniel Racz @Danny_Dimes
The most likely year for a wide receiver to “breakout” is in their sophomore year. The 2020 class, the best since the 2014 class that contains Mike Evans, Odell Beckham, and Davante Adams, has many weapons that could make a jump this season. Viking’s first-round pick Justin Jefferson already cemented himself as an elite wide receiver in almost any metric (separation, yards per route run, yards per game, and fantasy points per game). Appropriately, Jefferson is going in the top 26 picks per Underdog Fantasy’s BestBall ADP. CeeDee Lamb, Tee Higgins, and Brandon Aiyuk all had exceptional rookie years too. The Lamb through Aiyuk tier already had their breakout, but are priced more reasonably than Jefferson. Lamb (32.9), Higgins (53.2), and Aiyuk (60.2) all can be drafted for a more affordable price.
After that tier, all the sophomore wide receivers are drafted with the hope of a breakout, but that breakout should not be expected for all of them. Jerry Jeudy (74.8), Laviska Shenault (83.2), Michael Pittman (102.2), Darnell Mooney (107.4), Henry Ruggs (122.4), Gabriel Davis (130.1), and Jalen Reagor (132.9) have a chance to emerge as top wide receivers, but some are far more likely than others. Three of these wideouts specifically should not be drafted as high as they are currently going, and are likely to underperform.
Michael Pittman Jr.
Michael Pittman Jr. is a curious case of volume versus skill. On the one hand, Pittman has zero competition, meaning he should be the number one target for Carson Wentz and have the chance to see a monstrous target share, right?
In the wise words of Lee Corso, not so fast. Pittman came into the National Football League as a senior declare, red flag number one. When Pittman was a junior, he got out-produced by true freshman Amon-Ra St. Brown, red flag number two. Brown went in the fourth round of the 2021 draft, suggesting the NFL was not a big fan of his. In Pittman’s rookie year, he only commanded 60 targets and tallied only 503 yards and one touchdown, red flag number three. So, why do people want to like Michael Pittman? “Upside.”
The case for Pittman does not rely on his talent. Per PlayerProfiler, Pittman averaged 1.43 yards per route run, good for 72nd at the position. Teammate Zach Pascal, currently going undrafted in leagues, averaged 1.39 YPRR, ranking 76th at the position. T.Y Hilton ranked 50th with 1.78 YPRR. The Colts’ receiving room is not good, but Pittman was not good enough to separate himself from the other weapons last year. Targets are earned, not given. That is to say that if Pittman is not receiving targets, it is likely because he is not a good football player.
So far, Michael Pittman has played to his collegiate profile. Expecting an improbable outcome, like a Pittman breakout, is an exercise in futility. Instead of spending a 9th round pick on Pittman, take Laviska at the 7-8 turn or even Darnell Mooney in the 9th if you crave a sophomore wide receiver. The best values in the 9th round are not quarterbacks, they are running backs and quarterbacks. Draft Tom Brady, Ryan Tannehill, or James Conner instead of Pittman.
Henry Ruggs opened the offseason with an ADP in the 12/13th round. At this price, he was intriguing. Ruggs has game-breaking speed, but the Raiders treated him as a field stretcher and only a field stretcher. His average depth of target was 17.4 yards during the 2020 season, suggesting that his role was limited. The Raiders replaced Nelson Agholor with John Brown, so there is room for improvement with Henry Ruggs. Best case, Ruggs steps into the Agholor role and sees a more prominent role in the offense. Worst case, John Brown becomes the new Agholor, and Ruggs stays in a fantasy irrelevant role.
Henry Ruggs was a divisive prospect during the 2020 draft cycle. Some film grinders and draft scouts had him ranked as high as wide receiver one in the class. However, many that use analytics and data in their prospect rankings ranked Ruggs far lower. Some even had him outside their top ten wide receivers in the class due to his lack of breakout age and his status as the fourth wide receiver on the Alabama offense.
Ruggs should be drafted with the assumption that he may give you a few usable weeks, but banking on his almost unattainable upside is not a good bet. At the 10/11 turn, there are wide receivers like Rashod Bateman and Marvin Jones. Both of those wide receivers have a chance to command more targets, and Bateman has a good opportunity to be the top target-getter in the Baltimore offense.
Never have I witnessed this much hype for the fourth wide receiver on an offense. Add in the fact that Zach Ertz might be coming to Buffalo, and Davis is a screaming fade. Currently, Davis is the Bills wide receiver two by ADP, as Cole Beasley’s recent anti-science rants have dropped him behind Davis. Need I remind the Underdog draft community that Gabe Davis was a day 3 draft pick? Day three picks are rarely consistent fantasy performers (don’t chase outliers!). However, Davis is not even the most compelling day 3 wide receiver in his class. Darnell Mooney, a 5th round pick out of Tulane, is the locked and loaded wide receiver two on his offense. Davis currently sits behind Stefon Diggs, Cole Beasley, and Emmanuel Sanders. Sanders is still a great separator and quick off the line of scrimmage. Assuming that Davis will take on the number three role is foolish. Davis’s 2020 production was inflated by a 20% touchdown rate. His 599 receiving yards are a reasonable expectation for the 2021 season, but that will not be a good return-on-investment in the 11th round.
Again, players like Bateman and Marvin Jones are available where Davis is going. But, more importantly, you can get a piece of the Buffalo offense a round or two later. Emmanuel Sanders, who is set to see more snaps than Gabe Davis, can be drafted in the 13th round of your drafts. Do not make the mistake of drafting these sophomore wide receivers, and you will be rewarded when the season comes to an end.