Henry Ruggs, WR, Alabama
(percentile rank among all WRs at the Combine since 1999, courtesy of mockdraftable.com):
40-yard dash: 4.27 seconds (98th)
Vertical: 42” (97th)
Broad: 131” (94th)
20-yard shuttle: n/a
Another highly touted WR roped in by Nick Saban and Alabama. Ruggs was a 5-star recruit out of high school and a top-10 WR in his class according to multiple scouting services. He chose the Crimson Tide over Auburn, Florida, Florida State and Michigan, among others.
Ruggs was a big-play machine over his 3 college seasons. He averaged a big 17.5 yards per catch, with 8 grabs of 40+ yards. Ruggs scored on a ridiculous 24.5% of his career receptions. And he returned kicks as a freshman and junior, averaging 21.0 yards per attempt.
Ruggs never operated as Alabama’s lead receiver, though. He ranked 2nd on the team in catches and receiving scores as a sophomore, trailing fellow 2020 WR prospect Jerry Jeudy. Ruggs finished 3rd in receiving yards, behind Jeudy and then-freshman WR Jaylen Waddle.
Ruggs ranked 3rd on the team in catches, yards and TDs this past year — behind Jeudy and breakout WR Devonta Smith. Ruggs missed 1 game and parts of 2 others with a lower-body injury, a rib injury and a 3rd undisclosed injury.
Even if we look at just the 12 games Ruggs played in, though, his market shares are underwhelming: 14.5% of the receptions, 18.0% of the receiving yards and 15.6% of the receiving TDs. Those numbers rank 23rd, 20th and 23rd among 23 of this year’s top WR prospects.
Of course, context is important. Ruggs was battling for numbers with Jeudy, Smith and Waddle, who might all be 1st-round picks over the next 2 NFL drafts.
One final note on Ruggs’ production: He feasted on weaker opponents. Here are his per-game averages vs. Power 5 and Non-Power 5 schools over the past 2 seasons:
Courtesy of @WhatsOnDraftNFL
Games watched - Louisiana-Lafayette (2018), New Mexico State, South Carolina, LSU, Auburn
The Ruggs evaluation is simple. His game is speed, speed and more speed — plus another helping of speed piled on top.
We see it most often after the catch, where Ruggs makes defenders look like they’re running in quicksand trying to catch him.
Ruggs isn’t a dominant tackle-breaker, but he does show a bit of power and nice balance to run through contact.
Most surprising from Ruggs’ tape is that he didn’t make a single catch deep downfield on a go route in the 5 games I watched. Pro Football Focus charted him with just 4 receptions 20+ yards downfield in 2019.
That’s at least partly because he tends to struggle against physicality. Ruggs shows the ability to beat press coverage on occasion, but he can also get swallowed up by physical coverage and bumped off his routes by contact.
Ruggs is lined up at the top of your screen here:
Ruggs is not an advanced route runner. Most of the separation he creates is a result of his speed, either running by defenders or taking advantage of soft coverage.
Back on the plus side of the ledger, Ruggs does display a bigger catch radius than you might expect to get from a guy of his size.
According to Pro Football Focus, Ruggs dropped just 5 of 139 catchable targets (3.6%) over his 3 seasons at Alabama.
It’s also worth noting that his most complete tape among the 5 games I watched came against Auburn, his 2nd-to-last game at ‘Bama. Ruggs created big separation on crossing routes a few times in that one and made these 2 sideline grabs:
Having just turned 21 in January, Ruggs is certainly capable of developing as a route runner over the next few years.
Ruggs has truly elite speed that will undoubtedly translate to the next level. That’s valuable for both NFL and fantasy teams. At minimum, Ruggs will carry a high weekly ceiling.
But at this point, there’s not much else to Ruggs’ game. His route-running needs work, he might struggle against physical NFL corners and he’ll probably never be great in contested situations.
Ruggs was never the focal point of Alabama’s passing game — and I don’t expect him to emerge as the focal point of an NFL passing game. That figures to keep him out of WR1 territory in fantasy and make him more of a boom-or-bust WR2 or 3.