2020 NFL Draft Profile: Strengths, weaknesses, best Fantasy fits for Henry Ruggs
Alabama's Henry Ruggs will garner attention with his break-neck speed, but it's some of his other traits that help make him one of our three favorite receivers in the 2020 rookie class.
Henry Ruggs III is the fastest player in the 2020 draft class. Much has been made over his 40-yard dash time, but one look at what he did on the field at Alabama the past two seasons make it obvious just how uncommon his speed is. And it's that speed that helped Ruggs, a four-star recruit out of high school, average 17.5 yards per catch, gain 56.5% of his yards after the catch and score a touchdown every 4.1 receptions over his three-year career with the Crimson Tide. The 21-year-old figures to be a first-round pick in the NFL Draft and develop into an impact player.
Numbers to Know
Weight: 188 pounds
Hand: 10 1/8 inches
Arm: 30 1/2 inches
Wingspan: 74 1/2 inches
2019: 12 games, 40 receptions, 746 yards, 18.7 yards per catch, seven touchdowns; two carries, 75 yards, one touchdown.
In four games against top-25 competition, Ruggs collected 12 catches for 227 yards and two scores, leaving early in one of the four games (vs. Michigan) with a concussion.
2018: 14 games, 46 receptions, 741 yards, 16.1 yards per catch, 11 touchdowns
In five games against top-25 opponents (four in the top five), Ruggs had 14 catches for 205 yards and three scores.
Known Injury History
- Minor hip pointer, Sept. 2019
- Bruised ribs, Nov. 2019
- Concussion, Jan. 2020
This isn't hyperbole: Ruggs will be among the fastest players in the league. When he accelerates, he makes everyone else on the field look slow. He will have a hard time being overthrown and will draw double-teams to help teammates get wide open. He's also got the quick feet in his route-running to make great cuts, juke defenders and turn on a dime to separate quickly from defensive backs. Ruggs lined up primarily along the outside but did plenty of damage out of the slot, and while his route tree wasn't quite as complete as some of his teammates, he easily has potential to develop into a versatile playmaker. Expect him to be featured on screens, crossing routes and every deep route imaginable as a rookie.
Ruggs also has very good, reliable, oversized hands. Over the past two seasons he caught 87% of the catchable passes thrown his way, dropping just two of them. His quick hands snap and snare the ball, rarely going into his body. Ruggs also made plenty of good adjustments to off-target throws to help him gain yards, using those big mitts and a good wingspan to go get anything that wasn't right on his facemask. Those hands also help him in his blocking duties, where he was solid enough in college to not be a liability in the run game.
Despite a stocky build, Ruggs didn't always show the physicality necessary to handle the tough muscle coming his way in the pros. I'd say this showed up the most on the infrequent occasions when defensive backs tried pressing him at the line of scrimmage. When they didn't whiff on him off the snap (and those who did paid dearly), corners were physical enough to stay on his hip and slow him down. This isn't to say he is shy about contact — there are plenty of examples of him attempting contested catches and barreling into defenders for a touchdown or extra yards. He's just not a break-the-tackles kind of guy — he had 119 yards after contact and just two broken tackles in 2019, per Sports Info Solutions. Among receivers with 50-plus targets from Power-5 conference schools, those numbers did not rank well (60th in yards after contact, tied for 102nd in broken tackles).
Ruggs also did a fine job changing his speeds in his routes but seemed to not always burst off the snap and occasionally was a beat behind the rest of his team. Maybe it's because he didn't need to always explode, but his release off the snap requires some attention.
A couple of little things also stood out: One, Ruggs wasn't an every-down player for Alabama — teammate DeVonta Smith saw more playing time alongside Jerry Jeudy. Will there be an adjustment to having Ruggs play every snap, or will he not see every-down work right away? Two, his best games were against weak competition — six of his 24 career touchdowns and none of his 100-yard games came against tougher defenses (Ruggs did have 99 yards at Auburn in 2019). Is this an omen for things to come?
Ryan Wilson's Take
Ruggs has legit 4.2 speed but he's so much more than a deep threat. He's as likely to win on a deep route as he is to win on a slant that he takes 60 yards to the house. And while he lines up mostly outside, Ruggs is adept out of the slot too. He averaged at least 16.1 yards per reception in each of his three seasons at Alabama. According to Sports Info Solutions, Ruggs broke just five percent of tackles — but that has more to do with defenders unable to get their hands on him once he makes the catch. He also dropped just one pass all season.
It's hard to see Ruggs play and not think of Tyreek Hill. Both are impossibly fast, but Ruggs is a little bit bigger and has larger hands. He's also more polished than Hill was coming out of school. There's zero doubt that NFL teams will envision Ruggs as a gamebreaker and put him in position to compromise defenses starting in Week 1. Hill had 860 yards and nine total touchdowns as a rookie before exploding for bigger numbers in 2017, and career-best stats (so far) in 2018. But that's with Andy Reid as a playcaller and, beginning in 2018, Patrick Mahomes as his quarterback. Ruggs will need a great coach and quarterback to realize anything close to what Hill put up, but it wouldn't be shocking to see him as a high-ceiling flex starter in 2020.
Favorite Fantasy Fits
I dreamed about Ruggs going to a playoff contender with a great quarterback like the Saints or the Packers, but got concerned about how many targets he'd get. Then I considered him in a spot with the Raiders or Jets or Broncos, and like the opportunity provided but don't love the quarterback situation as much. Where could he go where he'd see close to 120 targets AND have a gunslinger?
The one place that makes the most sense is Philadelphia. He'd have a quarterback who wouldn't hold him back in Carson Wentz, the offensive system to capitalize on Ruggs' speed more than just a few times per game and the opportunity to stay involved. He'd be very popular if he went to the Eagles. He'd also have to be acquired via trade because Philly probably can't wait until 21st overall to get him.
Fantasy Bottom Line
Ready or not, Ruggs will get on the field plenty as a rookie because of his difference-making speed. There are plenty of wonderful receivers in the 2020 draft class, but an NFL team will reach for Ruggs because there aren't many guys who can run like him (or defenders who can keep up with him). The better the team, the higher his Fantasy stock. Until that's determined, Fantasy managers should expect Ruggs to get taken by the 100th overall pick in seasonal redrafts. He'll go a little sooner than that in Dynasty start-ups and keeper league drafts, while he's a potential top-eight pick in rookie-only drafts.
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