Following the Rookies: AFC West Las Vegas Raiders
The Las Vegas Raiders took one of the most talked about prospects of the 2020 NFL Draft with their 1st pick. Henry Ruggs III ran a 4.27 second 40 yard dash. On top of having game breaking speed he showed in his college film that he is a very good route runner who doesn't only have the speed but also knows how to use his speed when running routes. Many prospects before him have had speed. John Ross is the closest example to having the same speed but that's all he had, nothing else but blazing speed which can only get you so far. This is what separates Ruggs from other receivers with game breaking speed is that he understand how to use it to his advantage in many routes. Tyreek Hill is another example of this as he didn't possess this route running but learned it in the early stages of his NFL career and this is a big reason as to why he is consider an elite receiver in the NFL.
Henry Ruggs III has started in all 4 games he has played taking 14 targets for 8 receptions, 212 yards, and 1 touchdown. With an average of 26.5 yards per reception he is being the deep threat that the Raiders drafted him to be, but he can be more. Ruggs missed weeks 3 and 4 with a hamstring injury and when healthy in week 5 he showed the world exactly why he was the 1st receiver taken off the board. He took 2 receptions for 118 yards and a touchdown. On his first reception he showed his ability to go up over a safety and make contested catches on a deep ball from Derek Carr after easily beating the corner early in the route. On his second reception, a 72 yard touchdown, he showed off his blazing speed as well as knowledge/route running. Although it was a more simple route, Ruggs made it look easy. The Chiefs corner lined up with outside leverage and no over the top help. Ruggs read this and started his route running directly at the corner eating up the space between him and the defender. Ruggs then turned his route slightly to get straight up field and before the corner even got out of his back pedal Ruggs was already past him running downfield. After this the corner had no chance of keeping up with Ruggs who was able to show off his speed and create separation easily making the catch and taking it to the endzone. It didn't look like much at first glance but that's more so because of how easy Ruggs makes it look. I hope the Raiders begin to get Ruggs more involved because he is more then just a deep threat and with defenses always having to worry about him downfield he should be able to get open in the intermediate areas of the field with a combination of his speed, route running, and mental processing of defenses. The future for Ruggs will all depend on his usage, he can either end up like DeSean Jackson who is known simply for being that speed deep threat, or he can end up like Tyreek Hill who gets involved in the offense as more then just a deep threat.