Most observers agree the Las Vegas Raiders draft will include a wide receiver in the first round. With the 12th overall pick in the first round, the Raiders could choose between the fan-favorites CeeDee Lamb of Oklahoma, Jerry Jeudy of Alabama or would Jeudy’s teammate Henry Ruggs III be the better move?
Raider Nation as a body agrees with one thing when it comes to the 2020 NFL Draft: the Las Vegas Raiders need to draft a wide receiver. We’d like to make the case that wide receiver should be Henry Ruggs III.
Who will be available when the Raiders pick at No. 12 in the first round is part of the question and that who isn’t something all agree on. With Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy, and Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb at the top of most observers lists, it might be the “other” Alabama wideout who’s a better fit for what the Raiders need.
What the Raiders Need at Wide Receiver
Watching the Raiders during the 2019 season, it was clear quarterback Derek Carr didn’t have that marquee wide receiver on the outside to help accelerate the team’s vertical game. They thought they had that superstar wideout with the head-case Antonio Brown, but we all know how that experiment ended up.
With Brown in the middle of a mental breakdown and no longer in the picture, the Raiders had to count on newly signed free agent Tyrell Williams. Williams, who signed a four-year, $44.4 million contract last offseason, got off to a fast start.
Williams hauled in six grabs for 105 yards and a touchdown in the opening night game against the Broncos and looked every bit a No. 1 WR. That was before a chronic plantar fasciitis injury started nagging the talented player. It was an injury that ensured Williams would not be 100-percent all season long and he missed three full games and parts of others due to the foot problem. Still, Williams was never meant to be a featured outside receiver.
Rookie Hunter Renfrow had a very solid rookie campaign playing in the slot and has a go-to possession receiver for Carr. Renfrow, along with our choice for comeback player of the year in Darren Waller, were the engines of the Raiders passing offense.
Waller finished 2019 with 90 receptions for 1145 yards and three touchdowns and was by far the Raiders’ most dangerous weapon in the passing game. And while Waller is a beast of a tight end, he doesn’t give Las Vegas the speed on the outside they need to open up the vertical attack.
That lack of a true No. 1 wide receiver, who can push defenses downfield, is what the Raiders will look to change in free agency or the 2020 NFL Draft to be held in Las Vegas. Which receiver has the best skills and ability to push defenders down filed and open up the passing lanes for Derek Carr to exploit?
Why Henry Ruggs III is the Answer for the Raiders
Assuming the Raiders do draft a wide receiver with the No. 12 pick overall, like most prognosticators believe they will, they’re assured of getting a very good player. The three most common names slotted in those first 13 picks of the NFL Draft include Alabama’s Jeudy, Oklahoma’s Lamb and Jeudy’s oft-forgotten teammate Henry Ruggs III.
While speed is an overwhelming strength for all three receivers, Ruggs bested is higher-ranked competition with a 4.27 40-yard dash at this year’s NFL Combine. Jeudy clocked a 4.46 time and Lamb a 4.5. While 40 speed isn’t the end-all-be-all of metrics to draft a young wide receiver, there is more data to show Ruggs is a better deep threat than the other two talented wideouts.
According to some great analytics insight from Pro Football Focus’ Timo Riske, Ruggs offers a more consistent and explosive deep threat compared to, for example, his teammate Jeudy.
According to the attack zone heat maps below, Ruggs (left – red area) lined up primarily on the right side of the field and attacked outside the hash marks far more frequently than Jerry Jeudy (right) did. Both charts show excellent performance by both players outside the hash marks but with Ruggs more consistent further downfield.
Riske is clear when he mentions Jeudy was lined up mostly in the slot last year at Alabama while Ruggs lined up to the right, outside, most of the time. And while the advantage could be defined as slight, Ruggs’ hands are undoubtedly the best in the NFL Draft and his ability to go vertical seems to give him the edge over Jeudy.
While Henry Ruggs III is considered a bit undersized, he can take a beating and his overall body strength is underrated. Watching film of Ruggs, he often sheds tackles or bounces tacklers often. He’s excellent at breaking tackles and creates yards after the catch because of it.
Jeudy, who is a more wiry receiver that reminds me of an AJ Green type, is extremely talented but suffers concentration drops. While he doesn’t have many downsides at all, that one is a far cry from the sure-handed Ruggs. Ruggs also does better against contested balls and Jeudy also struggles in zone coverage, especially as linebackers change his path/routes at the second level.
Even though Jeudy has more “size” (albeit on a thin frame), in my view, Ruggs is more physical and coupled with with his explosive first step, he presents a more Tyreek Hill-like talent at WR. And in a division where you have to beat Hill’s Chiefs, Ruggs gives you that dynamic, speedy, physical receiver who will get open downfield – and fast.
If the Raiders do go wide receiver at No. 12, all three players – Henry Ruggs III, Jeudy, and Lamb – give them talent outside they haven’t had since Amari Cooper. All three players will most likely be steady and productive players at the NFL level, but Ruggs and his strengths offer the best fit for what the Raiders need and what they want to do.
What do you think? Which WR would you take at No. 12 (if available)?