PRO 2020 Rookie Spotlight: Henry Ruggs, WR Alabama

Rookie Spotlight: Henry Ruggs III, Alabama
Height: 5’ 11” (official)
Weight: 188 lbs (official)
Hands: 10 1/8”
Arm: 30 1/2”
40 yard dash: 4.27 (official)
NFL Comparison: Tyreek Hill, Santana Moss, Stefon Diggs

– fastest 40 time in 2020
– 99th percentile SPARQ athlete
– elite ball skills
– giant hands
– sacrifices body
– agile runner
– multi-sport star
– bigger than the average lid-popping deep threat
– instant contributor in return game

– not very physical before the catch
– was not productive statistically in college offense

2019 Team Market Share Numbers

14% receptions
17% receiving yards
14% receiving TDs

Scouting Notes: Ruggs has never topped 1,000 yards in a season or even been better than third on his team in receiving, but then he was on a team with receivers like Jerry Jeudy, Jaylen Waddle, Devonta Smith and Calvin Ridley. And though Jeudy is arguably the better NFL prospect, Ruggs may ultimately be the more dangerous player, and that’s because speed kills. We’re already starting to hear whispers that many NFL teams have Ruggs rated higher on their boards than Jeudy due to what the threat of his dominant speed can do to open things up even outside of his own assignments. There have also been reports that those close to the program consider Ruggs the “alpha”-personality in that very stacked WR room in Tuscaloosa. Jim Nagy, Director of the Senior Bowl and one of the most “in-tune” minds with the scouting industrial complex of any outsider has even asserted that Ruggs is the clear top WR in this historic class.

Ruggs ran the fastest 40 time at this year’s NFL Combine(4.27 sec), and he made it look easy. Watching his tape, one wonders how he’s pulling so far ahead of his defenders, as Ruggs is so smooth and effortless in his acceleration. As soon as the ball is in his hands, and he finds an angle, he’s gone. And if there happen to be defenders in his path, Ruggs will either evade their grasps or run through them. He doesn’t shy from contact, and he throws his body into it with reckless abandon at times. He takes that same intensity into contested catches (although he doesn’t see them often — per PFF, he had a much-lower-than-average 40% contested catch rate) and he’s got incredible ball skills, so he’s going to come down with the ball most of the time. It doesn’t hurt that he has enormous 10 ⅛” hands, bigger than any of the other top “size/speed” WR prospects including Chase Claypool or Collin Johnson.

Ruggs isn’t as physical prior to the catch, he doesn’t use his hands very much to beat the press, but then he’s such a threat to break open big plays that he doesn’t see the press that often. Defenders just aren’t going to play the fastest player on the field that close. Ruggs also has good footwork and deceptive head movement, so that helps him to shake his defenders in his stems. Defenders’ general fear of Ruggs’ deep speed led to Ruggs’ ability to make his QB look great not only on the deep balls, but in routes of the 10-19 yard range, where, per PFF, the 155.8 passer rating achieved by Bama QBs when targeting him was 4th-best in the nation of any WR operating in that same intermediate area.

It’s also worth mentioning the guy is just an athletic superfreak. It doesn’t necessarily provide any real additional signal, but shouldn’t some credence be given to a 5-11 guy who could dunk like this in high school?

Fantasy Outlook: Ruggs’ forty time could push him into top ten pick territory, as it did with John Ross (9th overall) in 2017. Ruggs seems like less of a gadget player than Ross has been this far in his career though, as he has better ball skills and succeeds in the intermediate passing game due to his fearless nature. Ruggs is more than just a deep threat, and has the potential to be a fantasy monster on game days. Don’t be afraid to take him in dynasty in the same range you would take the very top guys like CeeDee Lamb and Jerry Jeudy.

From the Alabama Athletic Department:

Junior (2019)
Finished his time with the Crimson Tide ranked third on Alabama’s career touchdown receptions list with 24 … averaged 17.5 yards per catch across his three seasons, good for sixth on the UA career list (minimum 50 catches) … owned the team-long rush (75 yards) and the second-longest reception (81 yards) in 2019 … recorded 40 receptions for 746 yards and seven touchdowns to go with 75 yards rushing … averaged a team-high 18.6 yards per catch to rank 24th nationally with 27 of his 40 receptions going for a Tide first down or touchdown … also a threat in the kick return game, accounting for 286 yards on 12 kickoff returns with a long of 40 … added six tackles on special teams … joined Jerry Jeudy, DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle on the Biletnikoff Award Watch List … selected as one of the Alabama coaching staff’s special teams players of the week for his efforts against Duke and Southern Miss … added offensive player of the week accolades from the Tide coaches for his play at South Carolina and against Southern Miss. Duke: Caught two passes for 14 yards in the opener … made plays on special teams, including a 22-yard kickoff return … named one of the Crimson Tide coaching staff’s special teams players of the week for his play against the Blue Devils. New Mexico State: Accumulated a team-high 160 all-purpose yards on the afternoon … rushed once for a 75-yard score on the first play of the game … added four catches for 66 yards and a touchdown to round out his game against the Aggies. South Carolina: Had a career day in Columbia … recorded a career-high 122 yards on six catches, a total that matched his career-best number for receptions … added a season-long and career-long 81-yard touchdown catch on a slant that he took to the house … paired with DeVonta Smith to become the ninth receiving duo to eclipse the 100-yard mark in the same game … earned offensive player of the week recognition for his play against the Gamecocks. Southern Miss: Selected as both an offensive and special teams player of the week for his output against the Golden Eagles … finished with a career-high and team-best 148 yards on just four receptions … matched the team-high mark with two touchdown catches, a total that tied his previous career best … added two tackles on special teams with one stop on punt coverage and one on kickoff. Ole Miss: Suffered a lower body injury early in the game that limited his playing time … converted a first down for the Tide with his one reception of 11 yards on the day. Texas A&M: Provided a spark in the kickoff return game, totaling 131 yards on four kicks with a long of 40 … added one reception with his lone catch going for a 33-yard touchdown. Tennessee: Led all pass-catchers against the Volunteers with 72 yards on four catches with a long of 48 … also returned a pair of kickoffs for 43 yards. Arkansas: Caught four passes for 47 yards and a score … found the end zone from 14 yards out for the Tide’s first touchdown of the night. LSU: Totaled 68 yards on three catches with all three receptions converting an Alabama first down … also brought three kickoffs out for a combined 71 yards with a long gain of 29. Mississippi State: Exited early with a rib injury … managed three catches for 39 yards with a long of 26 in his limited playing time. Auburn: Returned from injury to lead all Alabama wideouts with six catches for 99 yards and a touchdown … moved the sticks on four of his other five catches in the Iron Bowl. Michigan: Exited the game with an injury just before the end of the first quarter … caught two passes for 27 yards while adding one rush for no gain … also contributed one tackle on kickoff coverage prior to his exit.

Quotable from the Combine:

Q: How fast were your 40’s during your workouts?
A: I actually didn’t ask for the times. Whenever I ran them, I ran on feel. So if it felt good, I went back to the coach and asked him, ‘did it look good?’
Q: What do you want to hit?
A: I’m trying to hit the lowest ever. So 4.22 or lower.
Q: And then what’s the celebration afterwards?
A: My favorite celebration: throw the finger up.
Q: Is there any NFL receiver you model your game after?
A: No particular one receiver. I watch a lot of them, learn different techniques from different guys and try to see what’s more comfortable for me and what I can incorporate into my game.
Q: Any former Alabama wide receivers reach out to you about this process?
A: Calvin [Ridley] is one of my brothers that I played with, a guy I highly respect. And we have our personal relationship. We were in the room together. But I talked to a couple of the guys to learn what to expect.
Q: Is it awesome going through this process with Jerry Jeudy?
A: Definitely. That’s my brother. We can talk about anything, know what to expect together and help each other out.
Q: What kind of influence has Calvin Ridley had and what advice has he given you?
A: He’s definitely helped me with my confidence. That’s the biggest thing with me. Whenever he’s talking to me, he’s telling me I’m going to be better than him, or I’m gonna be in the same position as him. He doesn’t let me get down or overthink anything.
Q: What are Ridley’s best qualities as a receiver?
A: His ability: his route running, his hands. I feel like he’s a complete receiver. And he does everything he can to make plays for his team.
Q: Relationship with Julio Jones?
A: We have a pretty good relationship with all the receivers that come back. They come in and give us tips and help us out with things. But I’m pretty sure that with everybody in that room, they want to be the best, they want to be better than everybody. So Julio’s numbers are exceptional, but I think everybody wants to be better. (2:19)
Q: Is it difficult to not know your 40 time?
A: Honestly, no. I know what I’m expected to run when I go in. To me, it’s more about confidence. If I’m confident that I can run a good time, then I don’t need the clock to tell me that I ran well.
Q: Your mom claims to have run a pretty good 40 time. Do you believe that? And do you believe that you could beat her time?
A: I knew you were gonna say that [chuckles] If you ask me, she never ran that time. I knew she was pretty fast. She used to run in the neighborhood, run against guys all the time and beat them. And we used to race when I was young – but I was young. I was small, didn’t have long legs, didn’t really know too much about running. Her track background helped her out when we were racing to the car at the grocery store, stuff like that. But ultimately, she’ll tell you that she’s not faster than me. Maybe in her prime, she felt like it. But … no.
Q: Patriots?
A: I had a meeting with them last night. That went pretty good. They were just getting some information about who I am as a player.
Q: What do you learn from meetings like that?
A: You just learn different perspectives. You get a feel for different guys and see what type of things they expect from you.
Q: Eagles?
A: I can’t tell you every team that I’ve met with over the past few days. From all of them, you get different perspectives.
Q: What do teams want to know about you?
A: What type of player I am. Am I gonna be a guy that they can trust.
Q: Outside of speed, what are your best traits?
A: I feel like I bring everything. I’m a playmaker. I don’t just pride myself on just speed. I want to be a guy can do everything on the field. I get downfield to block for my teammates, just as they do the same for me. I play without the ball, and with the ball in my hands I can make a play.
Q: Favorite route?
A: I wouldn’t say that I have a favorite route. Whichever one will get the ball in my hands the fastest.
Q: What do you think about the wide receiver class as a whole?
A: I think that the group as a whole, all the receivers here are exceptional. Everybody had good careers at their respective colleges. And everybody is in the talk for great things at the next level. Everybody’s going ahead with their own personal agendas and their own confidence, and they have to do what they have to do for themselves.
Q: Question about his skillset.
A: I’m just confident in myself. I pride myself on being a complete player, and I know that I can do everything on the field. So whatever I’m asked to do, I do it.
Q: Do you have a relationship with Amari Cooper?
A: He’s not a guy I talk to frequently, because I played with other receivers and guys who went through Alabama. So those are the guys I have a personal relationship with. But I had a couple of talks with him.
Q: What do you know about the Buffalo Bills?
A: I know that my old coach Brian Daboll is there. So the system is not gonna be too hard to adapt to if I am there.
Q: What was your relationship with Daboll?
A: It was pretty good. I was a guy that had to step into a role as a freshman. I was a guy that whenever he called my number, he knew that I was gonna be there and ready to make a play.
Q: Is he a players’ coach?
A: He definitely developed a relationship with his players and made sure that you grasped everything that he said.
Q: What else do you want to showcase besides your speed?
A: I want to showcase everything. I want to showcase my catching ability, my route running. I also want to show that I’m a complete receiver and I can do everything that you need me to do.
Q: Are there other things besides speed that are underrated?
A: Just being a receiver, route running and being able to create space in one-on-one situations and understanding the defense.
Q: Do you think you will beat Jalen Reagor in the 40?
A: I’m always gonna bet on myself. I’m always being confident about what I do. I know that he’s a very fast guy. We’re always in talks about that. We talked about it every day since we’ve been here. But even he’s expecting me to run one of the best times.
Q: He said that he’s running before you. He wants to set the tone.
A: Yeah, that’s what he said. He said he wants to run somewhere in the 4.2 range. But whatever he does, he wants me to beat him.
Q: Is there something about your game that makes you ready to contribute in year one?
A: I think the biggest thing is confidence in the game. I know I’m not the biggest guy but I’m not afraid to throw my body in with anybody.
Q: Does watching what Tyreek Hill does give you confidence that you can have the same kind of impact?
A: Of course. He’s not the biggest guy. So him being in that offense and making the plays that he’s making, doing the things that he does, it gives me more confidence to show that anybody can do anything.
Q: Chiefs?
A: Like I said, I met with numerous teams. I can’t name every team.
Q: Bills?
A: That’s one that I can say I remember, because my old coach was in there.
Q: Other than Coach Daboll, what stands out to you about the Bills?
A: It’s the NFL. They’re all great teams. They all have different perspectives of how they want to do things and how they view me as a player and a person. So I’m learning different things about everybody.
Q: Is there a route that you won on a lot when you were at Alabama?
A: We did a lot of RPOs. So slants and glances are one thing I like to do. A glance is a five-step slant or a skinny post.
Q: Where do you feel that you won as a receiver?
A: Most of the time, it was whenever I got to run. So whenever I got into my cycle and got to run I could burn them.
Q: Advice for Rich Eisen for his annual 40 yard dash for charity?
A: Don’t hurt yourself. [Chuckles] That’s a great thing to do for a great cause. I totally respect that. But be yourself and don’t try to overdo it.
Q: Are you the fastest guy here in Indy?
A: If you ask me, yes. I’m always the fastest.
Q: Was it hard to give up on basketball?
A: Definitely. I still never let it go. If you asked me to go to the gym right now, I’d say ‘Let’s go.’ I’d put on my shoes and be ready to go. Basketball was my first love and my passion at first. But overall, football ended up taking over, and that’s where my head is.”
Q: Would you fit with the Eagles?
A: As a player, I feel like I can fit in anywhere. Wherever I’m placed, I’ll make myself fit in and be trusted by whoever it is.
Q: A question about his mother’s track career.
A: I can’t tell you exactly every race she ran. I know she was a 100 meter runner and she ran the 200. She didn’t really like the 400 too much; I guess that’s why I like to sprint rather than run the distance races. She ended up getting injured doing the hurdles, so I always call her clumsy for that.
Q: How did she impact him as a runner?
A: I just got confidence from playing with her. We used to race to the car, race from the house, race in the streets because that’s what she always did. Once I started to beat her, she would tell me, ‘OK, you’re gonna be able to run.’ That helped me develop a lot of confidence.
Q: Should you be in consideration for the #1 receiver drafted?
A: I’m gonna always say yes, because I’m not just a speed guy. I’m a complete receiver. I’m ready to do whatever I need to do in whatever position I end up at.
Q: How much does top-end speed change offenses?
A: I feel like it changes a lot. It puts fear into the D-coordinator and especially the DBs because they never know what to expect from a speed guy. They always think he’s gonna run by them.
Q: Broncos?
A: I think I have, yes.
Q:What impact did [longtime Alabama strength coach] Scott Cochran have on you?
A: Incomparable. He was a great guy. We develop relationships, as players, and as a strength coach he was somebody you knew you could always talk to about anything. He made sure to find a way to get the best out of each and every one of us.
Q: Weigh in on any Joe Burrow vs. Tua debate.
A: I feel that Tua is a great player overall, a great man. He’s a great leader for the team. He made us better. He never shied away from any competition. When you get down to it, the organizations have to make that decision based on whatever is gonna be the best for them. But Joe and Tua are both great guys. They do great things over there at LSU, especially this season. So I’m not gonna pick one guy over the other. They’re both great guys. And like I said, Tua’s a great leader, a great teammate, and even after the injury, he was always around, lifting up the team.
Q: Is Tua’s leadership more important, or his physical traits?
A: Both. Both played a big role. His leadership always made us better. He never let us slack off in practice, and that obviously made us better as a team.
Q: How does Brian Daboll’s coaching mesh with your skill set?
A: He knows his guys. He has a better relationship with his guys. He knows what to expect from each and every guy. He knows how to get the ball to his playmakers or put you in the best situation.
Q: Is your best football still ahead of you now that you don’t have to share the ball with so many great players?
A: Definitely. We had a great group as a team that always made each other better. We had to take advantage of each and every opportunity because you never knew: you could have a day where you had two catches, or you could have a day with 11 catches. I feel like my best football is yet to come, because I have a lot to learn and develop as a player.
Q: Is your speed “different” than even the guys who are here?
A: Yeah. I feel like my speed is something that I bring to the table that I can do better than other guys.
Q: Jerry Jeudy described you as “goofy.” Is that accurate?
A: Yeah. I try not to be too uptight all the time. When it’s time to work, it’s time to work. But when we sit in the room, we’re gonna make jokes about everything. We always try to find something that we do bad on film and we try to bash each other and joke on each other. But that will ultimately make you better.
Q: And how do you describe him? 
A: He’s the same. Goofy. All he wants to do is dance, him and [gives nicknames of other players]. All they want to do is dance and joke on each other. It’s fun.
Q: Can they dance?
A: I mean, it’s a different style of dancing. But I guess, yeah.
Q: What do you remember about the race between the Alabama defensive backs and the wide receivers?
A: It was always talk, because we all know the receivers are the fastest people on the team. There’s nobody to compete with us. But the DB’s always talk about track. Track speed this; track speed’s different. That race took about an hour and 30 minutes to set up. We had the receivers ready at the track, and the DB group couldn’t decide what they wanted to run. Ultimately, they were like, ‘we gotta wait on [cornerback Trevon] Diggs. Diggs came out there, and Jeudy blew him out of the water. So it was a dead race from the start.
Q: Do you pay attention to the mock drafts that are sending you to the Broncos?
A: I don’t pay too much attention to it. I don’t want to get caught up in the media or the expectations. I’m just going on what kind of player I am and what I want to be known for.
Q: Would playing for the Broncos intrigue you?
A: I’ll be excited to be anywhere. I can make myself at home in whatever program I end up in. And I have to develop that trust with whatever quarterback and receivers.
Q: What’s it like being on this stage with Jerry Jeudy?
A: It was a great experience. Like I said, it made you better as a person and a player because you had to take advantage of each and every opportunity. Ultimately, Jeudy is my brother, and now we’re on the same stage. We are competing against each other, but we’re brothers, so that competition is only going to make us better.
Q: Compare your game to Jeudy’s
A: I’m not gonna compare us too much, because that’s my brother, I’ve got nothing against him, he’s a great player, he’s a great all-around receiver. And I want to be the same.
Q: Are you looking forward to the grind?
A: I’m definitely looking forward to it. I have a lot to develop as a player. I have to grow a lot. I’m excited for the process. It’s definitely gonna be a grind, learning a system and developing that trust from not only the coaching staff but the players on the team.
Q: Thoughts on Bills QB Josh Allen?
A: He’s a great guy. A great team player. He does some great things. I have a personal relationship with a couple of guys over there, especially the coach. He’s done some good things.”
Q: What’s the fastest 40 time you have ever run?
A: All of my 40s have been unofficial. My fastest would be the 4.25 in the spring. I feel like I can do better.
Q: Who are you most similar to among guys in the NFL right now?
A: I’m gonna go with Tyreek Hill. I’m not the biggest guy. I’m fast, I’m quick, and I know I can make plays with the ball in my hands.
Q:Will your change-of-direction help you produce immediately at the next level?
A: Definitely. Once the ball gets in my hands, I know I can make a play. I’m not gonna shy away from anybody.
Q: What was tackle Jedrick Wills like in the locker room?
A: All he wanted to do was joke. That’s a lot of the guys on the team. They wanted to joke around and keep the spirit up. A program like that is a business-oriented program. You always want to go about your business first. But having guys like that in the locker room just keeps the team spirit up and lets you get too uptight.
Q: Who is the toughest cornerback you faced in college?
A: I faced a lot of good guys. I gotta give a lot of credit to – I don’t like to say names so I call out numbers – so I’ll say 24 from South Carolina. He was a long guy and that was definitely a difficult matchup. [Israel Mukuamu]
Q: Are you versatile enough to play outside and the slot?
A: At Alabama, the way our offense was set up, different positions, I’m not afraid to move around. I played inside, outside. If you wanted me at running back, I’d do that. I’m a team player, and I will do whatever you ask me to do.

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