The Las Vegas Raiders had high hopes for wide receiver Henry Ruggs III after taking him with the 12th overall pick out of Alabama in the 2020 NFL Draft.
This had been one of the deepest receiver drafts in recent history with a healthy crop of rookie talent making their way into the league. However, the Raiders opted to make Ruggs the first one taken thanks to his game-changing speed.
Unfortunately, the Raiders had a tough time putting his skill set as a deep threat on display as much as they would have hoped. Regardless, they remain as optimistic as ever about his potential moving forward.
There is plenty of work to be done for Ruggs in the offseason. The Raiders plan to put an emphasis on building his route tree as Jon Gruden wants him to play even faster, per Vic Tafur of The Athletic:
While the 5-11, 188-pound Ruggs is obviously fast, the Raiders want him to play faster, especially in getting in and out of his breaks. It’s the biggest reason fans didn’t see as many slants or intermediate catches as anticipated.
Gruden acknowledged Ruggs’ underwhelming rookie year but still feels there is plenty to build on:
“We’re not being defended like we’ve been defended in the past,” Gruden said last month. “I’m not sure how many passes Cliff Branch caught when he was a rookie, but that’d be a good story for you guys to look into. The threat of Ruggs is prevalent when he’s on the grass. We’re going to get him the ball more, but right now we’re more interested in trying to find ways to win than trying to fuel somebody’s stats. We’re really pleased with Ruggs and excited about him being here.”
Ruggs was taken ahead of the likes of fellow wide receivers CeeDee Lamb and Jerry Jeudy thanks to his blazing speed. While Lamb and Jeudy had no problem fitting the billing as bonafide first-round picks, he finished the season with a mere 26 catches for 452 yards and two touchdowns — all outside the top-10 among rookies wideouts.
Of course, Ruggs did have his moments of triumph where he came up with big catches in wins over the Kansas City Chiefs and New York Jets. At the same time, Las Vegas will need him to take that next step into becoming the No. 1 option for quarterback Derek Carr in the passing game.
It is safe to say that Ruggs’ development will be a top priority for the Raiders this offseason.