Alabama Football: Henry Ruggs III will be instant star with Raiders

AUBURN, ALABAMA - NOVEMBER 30: Henry Ruggs III #11 of the Alabama Crimson Tide pulls in this touchdown reception against the Auburn Tigers in the first half at Jordan Hare Stadium on November 30, 2019 in Auburn, Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
AUBURN, ALABAMA - NOVEMBER 30: Henry Ruggs III #11 of the Alabama Crimson Tide pulls in this touchdown reception against the Auburn Tigers in the first half at Jordan Hare Stadium on November 30, 2019 in Auburn, Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

After being selected with the 12th overall pick of the 2020 NFL Draft, former Alabama football receiver Henry Ruggs III is set to become an instant star.

The 2020 NFL Draft’s receiver class had been hyped like no other in recent memory. It was largely expected that the Las Vegas Raiders would select a receiver at pick No. 12, depending on who was still available.

As the draft unfolded, it emerged that they would have the pick of the crop. With CeeDee Lamb and Jerry Jeudy passed on, it’s the latter’s former Alabama teammate Henry Ruggs III who now carries the hopes of the silver and black.

It should have been no surprise that general manager Mike Mayock and head coach Jon Gruden would choose Ruggs III with what was not only their first pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, but will go down in history as the first ever pick of the new Las Vegas Raiders.

He perfectly fits everything that Jon Gruden wants to do with his offense.

Gruden famously loves to stretch the field and with Ruggs III’s speed, he’s found the perfect weapon to do so. No other wide receiver has the break neck speed that Ruggs III brings to the table. He obliterated the opposition at the NFL Combine, posting an astonishing 4.27 in the 40-yard dash.

As fans of Alabama football will tell you, there is so much more to Ruggs III than just using his speed to create a vertical threat. He has the ability to turn a slant route into a house call. With the ball in his hands in even the smallest amount of space he is unstoppable.

Ruggs III can also provide a red-zone threat, with his explosion at the line of scrimmage allowing him to create space in the end zone as evidenced against Arkansas and Auburn. He has superb catch ability, without the drops that Jeudy suffered during their final season together for Alabama.

Although the Raiders have a solid ground game with another former Alabama football star in Josh Jacobs, Ruggs III can help add some creativity and variation in the playbook there. He has two rushes for 75 yards and a score during his time with the Crimson Tide.

Add in the fact that he was fifth in the SEC in 2019 for kickoff return yards, you begin to get the idea of exactly how much of an impact Ruggs III can have on the football field.

His ability to impact the game is something that Mayock is keenly aware of as he told reporters:

"“He can run the deep routes. He also gets the manufactured touches, the bubble screens, the jet sweeps. I just think it does a lot of things for us offensively and I think the most important thing is Coach Gruden and the staff will get everything out of him.”"

In a phenomenal wide receiver room at Alabama football, just how spectacular Ruggs III can be has been somewhat lost in the box score. He doesn’t have the career receiving yards or Biletnikoff Award like Jeudy, but he actually led all Alabama receivers in yards per reception in 2019 and turned his 98 career receptions into 24 touchdowns.

That level of production is sorely needed for a Raiders wide receiver room that lacked a true dynamic, play-making threat for Derek Carr in 2019. They invested heavily in Antonio Brown prior to the season, and their only return on their investment was a social media circus and a ratings boost for their appearance on Hard Knocks.

As a result, they were left short at the position and it showed. Brown was supposed to be the field stretching deep threat that Gruden’s offense thrived on. Without him, they turned to Tyrell Williams who has a history of inconsistency in the NFL, and Clemson rookie Hunter Renfrow. Whilst the rookie shone in the spotlight, both receivers scraped past 600 receiving yards, leaving tight end Darren Waller to be the focal point of the offense.

The Raiders’ problems at the wide receiver position stretch back further than the 2019 season, however.

They haven’t had a receiver log a 1,000-plus yard season since 2016 when they rode Alabama alum Amari Cooper, in tandem with Michael Crabtree, to the playoffs.

Cooper was their last wide receiver taken in the first round of the NFL draft and he delivered back to back 1,000-yard seasons, including the first for a rookie since Randy Moss in 2005, before being traded to the Dallas Cowboys in October 2018.

The Raiders have struggled to reproduce Cooper’s production. Until now.

With the perfect skill set to match the Raiders brand of football, Ruggs III is set to become the next Alabama star to shine bright in the silver and black.

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