Henry Ruggs

AFC West Rumors: Raiders, Simmons, Jones

From Cliff Branch to James Jett to Darrius Heyward-Bey (to name a few of many), the Raiders have been known for their speed affinity for decades. They surprised many by making Henry Ruggs the first wide receiver pick in this draft. Their owner was eyeing the Alabama deep threat for months leading up to the draft. Citing a lack of team speed for the past several years, Mark Davis said he pegged Ruggs as the first-rounder he wanted for six months going into this year’s draft, via Vic Tafur of The Athletic (subscription required). Chosen before Alabama teammate Jerry Jeudy and Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb, Ruggs did not eclipse 800 yards in a college season. And he spent time this offseason rehabbing a thigh injury he sustained two months ago while helping a friend move. However, Ruggs said Wednesday he is 100%, per Scott Bair of NBC Sports Bay Area (on Twitter), as Raiders rookies prepare for the team’s strength and conditioning period.

Here is the latest from the AFC West:

  • For the first time in five negotiations with franchise-tagged players, Broncos GM John Elway did not close a deal. Justin Simmons will play this season on the safety tag. Elway said discussions never came close to a deal, but the 10th-year GM believed his offer was “very, very fair.” The offer was believed to place Simmons among the five or six highest-paid safeties. Guaranteed money was an issue, however, with Elway noting the pandemic induced the Broncos to limit the guaranteed dollars in their proposal to Simmons (Twitter links via 9News’ Mike Klis). Elway, who said late last season Simmons would be a priority, still wants to extend the standout defensive back next year.
  • The Raiders are beginning their first season in Las Vegas, but the prospects of the NFL moving to Nevada surfaced in January 2016. Davis adds that Vegas was after the Raiders “for years” before those talks began. “We got our ass kicked in L.A., and we went back to Oakland with our tails between our legs. And then (Coliseum Authority executive director Scott) McKibben backtracked and tripled our lease, and it was total disrespect. It was like, how are we going to work with these people?” Davis said. “Vegas had been after us for years, but I told them I will only talk to you if Oakland and Los Angeles don’t happen.” The NFL in 2016 voted to send the Rams to Los Angeles and placed the Chargers ahead of the Raiders in the pecking order. The Raiders then spent three years as a lame-duck team in Oakland.
  • Chris Jones‘ contract trails both Fletcher Cox‘s 2016 extension ($17.1MM per year) and Grady Jarrett‘s pact in 2019 ($17MM AAV) in terms of two-year payouts, leading Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap to label it a Chiefs-friendly deal. Jones’ four-year, $80MM extension is essentially a two-year deal. The Chiefs, who did this deal without including a signing bonus, would incur no dead money by moving Jones in 2022. Through those two years, Jones will see $37.6MM — which is also well behind Aaron Donald‘s $60MM two-year total.

Raiders, Henry Ruggs Agree To Deal

The Raiders have agreed to terms Henry Ruggs, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (on Twitter). Per the terms of his slot at No. 12, the speedy wide receiver will earn $16.67MM on his four-year deal.

Ruggs didn’t put up gaudy numbers in Alabama’s talent-laden offense, but teams were more focused on a sub-4.3-second 40-yard dash. That was evident on draft night when he went ahead of Jerry Jeudy, who tallied ~1,500 yards and 24 touchdowns over the last two years. Ruggs, meanwhile, cleared 700 yards in each of his final two seasons.

More importantly, he averaged 17.5 yards per grab over the course of his collegiate career. The 6’0″ receiver projects as a potent deep threat, one that Jon Gruden & Co. could not pass up. Along with Tyrell Williams and Hunter Renfrow, Ruggs figures to give fits to opposing defenses.

Here’s the full rundown of the Raiders’ 2020 class, via PFR’s tracker:

1-12: Henry Ruggs III, WR (Alabama): Signed
1-19: Damon Arnette, CB (Ohio State)
3-80: Lynn Bowden Jr., WR (Kentucky)
3-81: Bryan Edwards, WR (South Carolina)
3-100: Tanner Muse, LB (Clemson)
4-109: John Simpson, OL (Clemson)
4-139: Amik Robertson, CB (Louisiana Tech)

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Poll: Which First-Round WR Will Make The Biggest Impact In 2020?

This year’s wide receiver draft class was widely regarded as one of the deepest in recent memory. It was so deep, in fact, that teams felt they could secure immediate-impact players on Day 2 and even Day 3 of the draft. Still, a few players separated themselves from their peers and became first-round selections, the cream of a bountiful crop.

The consensus top three talents were Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb and Alabama standouts Henry Ruggs and Jerry Jeudy. It would not have been surprising to see any of those three players taken in the top-10, and ultimately Ruggs came off the board first, going to the Raiders with the No. 12 overall selection.

The Broncos were quite content with that, as they snagged Jeudy – whom they considered trading up for – with the No. 15 pick. Then, although the Cowboys perhaps had more pressing needs, they could not turn down Lamb when he surprisingly fell into their laps at No. 17.

TCU’s Jalen Reagor was the next domino to fall, heading to the Eagles with the No. 21 selection. Reagor was something of a late riser in the process, as he had been mocked as a second- to third-round choice but began garnering attention as a potential first-rounder as we got closer to draft day. Philadelphia GM Howie Roseman obviously saw something he liked, and he pounced.

But LSU’s Justin Jefferson, generally considered the fourth-best wideout in the class, didn’t have to wait too much longer to hear his name called. The Vikings took him one pick after Reagor.

All five of those players stand a good chance of becoming difference-makers for their respective clubs, as is the case with any first-round pick. But we would like to know from you which of them you think will have the biggest impact as a rookie.

With Ruggs, the Raiders added a speed merchant whose college production did not match that of Jeudy — his teammate of three years with the Crimson Tide — but who fits the Las Vegas offense nicely. The Raiders added another collegiate wideout, Bryan Edwards, in the third round, and they also took a flier on veteran Nelson Agholor. Still, it appears as if Ruggs has a good chance to start opposite Tyrell Williams, with Hunter Renfrow working the slot. Ruggs is electric with the ball in his hands, and he is not a one-dimensional deep threat; he is a solid route-runner who should only get better with coaching. His recent off-field injury seems to be a non-issue, and he will be a boost to a passing offense that performed better than one might think in 2019.

The Broncos, meanwhile, are building a strong young nucleus of skill position talent, and Jeudy will team with Courtland Sutton to form one of the most promising 1-2 punches in the game. He is a gifted route-runner whose excellent production against SEC defenses jumps off the page — he averaged 72 catches for 1,239 yards and 12 TDs over his final two years in school – and he has the versatility to line up outside or in the slot. Fellow rookie KJ Hamler, whom Denver nabbed in the second round, may get most of the slot reps, but Jeudy will be a threat no matter where he plays.

Though Lamb will have to compete with Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup for targets, the Cowboys are perfectly capable of moving the ball through the air and will have plenty of opportunities to go around. Lamb should work primarily in the slot, which will mask some of the deficiencies he has as a route-runner and against press coverage. He has terrific hands and tracking ability, and though he may lack top-line speed, he is plenty quick enough to make things happen, and his overall athleticism is off the charts. He is also a strong and willing blocker, which Ezekiel Elliott will surely appreciate.

Due to injuries and under-performance, the Eagles’ WR group provided very little production last year. Veteran DeSean Jackson played just three games in 2019, Alshon Jeffery may start the season on the PUP list, and 2019 second-rounder JJ Arcega-Whiteside failed to live up to expectations. Philadelphia tried to trade up for Lamb but was happy to pick up Reagor, whose blazing speed could pair well with Jackson. Though it took a while for his stock to rise, that may have been because the TCU offense didn’t give him the chance to show off his route-running skills, so the more scouts were able to evaluate his tape, the more impressed they became. He struggled with drops from time to time, but with his abilities as a deep target and a YAC monster, he has the potential to be a dynamic pro. On the other hand, there are rumblings that Reagor will be asked to focus on just one position in 2020 and will be the understudy to D-Jax, so he may not get as much immediate PT as we might have expected.

Like the Eagles, the Vikings sorely needed to upgrade their WR corps, and Jefferson steps into a great situation, as Minnesota traded Stefon Diggs earlier in the offseason and did little to replace him. So Jefferson should start opposite Adam Thielen, whose mounting injury history could open up even more opportunities. Like most of the LSU offense, Jefferson was tremendous in 2019, securing 111 catches for 1,540 yards and 18 TDs. He offers an intriguing blend of size and speed, and though he may struggle to create separation in the pros, he has good hands and runs good routes. The Vikings like to run the ball, but Kirk Cousins is a capable QB and Jefferson should see plenty of passes coming his way.

So let’s hear your thoughts. Tell us which of these five players will have the most impact on his team in 2020, and explain your reasoning in the comments.

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West Rumors: Raiders, Henderson, Broncos

Tyrell Williams dealt with injuries to both of his feet last season, missing time because of it. The maladies took a while to recover from this offseason, but the veteran Raiders wideout believes he has nearly surmounted the nagging problems.

Shoot, it’s been a long offseason with my feet,” Williams said, via Vic Tafur of The Athletic (subscription required). “I did two months after the season of just rehab and resting them. It was still taking a long time and I started getting pretty discouraged, but … um, about two months ago, I finally got over the hump and my feet have been feeling good. I still feel it a little bit, but compared to what I had … it’s nothing compared to what I was going through during the season.”

Williams missed two games with plantar fasciitis in his right foot but said his left foot became a discomfort source after he returned. The second-year Raider then dealt with pain in both feet the rest of the way. Williams still averaged 15.5 yards per catch, but the Raiders drafted two wideouts and a gadget player (Lynn Bowden Jr.) in the first three rounds. The Raiders guaranteed Williams’ $11MM base salary earlier this year, but the ex-Charger has no guaranteed money on his deal beyond 2020.

Here is more injury news from the Raiders’ receiving corps and the latest from the rest of the Wests:

  • Las Vegas first-round pick Henry Ruggs suffered an injury helping a friend move last month but is expected to be ready for camp. While the Raiders’ newest speed merchant received stitches, he sustained no muscular damage, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. Around six weeks remain until rookies report for camps.
  • The Rams are beginning a new era at running back, having cut five-year starter Todd Gurley. Darrell Henderson will be one of the players vying for the starting job. The second-year back, however, underwent ankle surgery this offseason, Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic tweets. This issue may be behind him, with Rodrigue adding that Henderson has already participated in multiple Jared Goff-conducted throwing sessions (Twitter link). Henderson, Malcolm Brown and rookie second-rounder Cam Akers represent the top options in Los Angeles’ backfield.
  • The Broncos‘ backfield has two primary options, but it’s perhaps just as muddled. Given a two-year, $16MM contract, Melvin Gordon is in line to take Phillip Lindsay‘s starting job despite the latter’s back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. New Denver OC Pat Shurmur was said to have pushed for a “bellcow” back like Gordon, but Denver’s new OC denied he did so on Thursday. “I think that (rumor) is a false narrative. I’m all for adding good players at every position. I feel like Phillip Lindsay is an outstanding player who we can hand the ball to, or throw the ball to. The fact that we have two running backs now who can be very explosive with the ball in their hands, whether they throw it or run it, is a good thing,” Shurmur said, via Denver7’s Troy Renck. “You need more than one running back. … The whole ‘pounding the table’ narrative — listen, I’m the new guy here.”
  • While Lindsay showed promise as a pass catcher at Colorado, Gordon has been more productive as a pro in that area. Gordon’s $8MM-AAV deal and Lindsay’s $750K 2020 base salary would point to the former being ticketed for a change-of-pace role. Shurmur, however, said he envisions formations that will feature both Gordon and Lindsay, Renck tweets.

Henry Ruggs Suffers Off-Field Injury

Raiders first-round pick Henry Ruggs III will be on the mend for a stretch. The former Alabama standout suffered a thigh injury while helping a friend move furniture Monday, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.

Ruggs’ father said his son is walking on crutches currently but added that he is “pretty much OK.”

He was trying to move a trailer or something — move furniture or something — and the trailer just kind of pinned him against a car or a wall or something,” Henry Ruggs Jr. said, via AL.com’s Wesley Sinor. “He’s pretty much OK. I’m about to go out there and see him in a little bit. It was just like a little open wound on his leg, a little incision. Like something had stuck him right there on his thigh a little bit.”

Ruggs is expected to be fine, per the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Vincent Bonsignore (on Twitter), and with the offseason likely not to feature minicamps, the draft’s top speed merchant may well be ready to participate in training camp. But Ruggs, who is expected to be an immediate Raiders contributor, will be on the shelf for the time being.

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Raiders, 49ers, Broncos, Eagles Eyeing Henry Ruggs

Alabama will likely have two receivers drafted in the top 20 Thursday night. The faster of those two talents has generated interest from several teams with mid-first-round selections and clear wideout needs.

The 49ers, Broncos, Raiders and Eagles have contacted Henry Ruggs the most, the ex-Crimson Tide speedster told Ian Rapoport on the RapSheet and Friends Podcast (Twitter link via NBC Sports Philadelphia’s John Clark). The Raiders, 49ers and Broncos pick at Nos. 12, 13 and 15, respectively, while the Eagles possess the No. 21 selection.

Ruggs has sub-4.3-second 40-yard dash speed. While he was not as productive as Jerry Jeudy, there could be a genuine chance he goes off the board before his former teammate. The Jets, who pick 11th, have also expressed interest in Ruggs. But they are believed to be zeroing in on tackles over wideouts. However, if the Dolphins are in play for a tackle, teams with mid-round picks hoping to land one of the coveted top four at the position could be in trouble.

The Raiders and 49ers carry two first-rounders and possess clear receiver needs opposite Tyrell Williams and Deebo Samuel, respectively. A player like Ruggs would make sense for a Broncos team that rosters the 6-foot-4 Courtland Sutton. The Broncos have been linked to a trade-up, but for Jeudy and not Ruggs. As for the Eagles, they have been connected to receivers throughout the pre-draft process. But at this point, it is looking like Philly will have to move up from No. 21 to land Ruggs.

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Chiefs Eyeing Henry Ruggs?

With the final pick in the first round, most analysts expect the Chiefs to prioritize their need at cornerback. However, Peter King of NBC Sports has heard that the Chiefs could also explore a move up for Alabama wide receiver Henry Ruggs III if he falls into the twenties.

[RELATED: Is This The Most Unpredictable Draft In NFL History?] 

The Chiefs already have a loaded group of receivers, headlined by Tyreek Hill, Mecole Hardman, Sammy Watkins, and tight end Travis Kelce. They’re also short on ammo for a trade up the board, so a leap for Ruggs would be truly shocking.

It’s not hard to see why the Chiefs might be drawn to Ruggs, of course. He’s one of the very best receivers in a historically deep class for the position, alongside Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb and teammate Jerry Jeudy. He also has the blazing speed that the Chiefs can’t get enough of – his 4.4 second 40-yard-dash shows that he has the moves to burn any corner in the pros.

While they don’t need another dynamic wide receiver, the Chiefs may view Ruggs as a long-term replacement for Watkins. The veteran re-upped with KC on a one-year deal earlier this month, which means that he probably won’t fit into their budget if he has a monster season. And, while the cornerback position is a must, they might be content to pass on CBs in the first round once Jeff Okudah and C.J. Henderson are spoken for.

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WR Rumors: Jets, Ruggs, Cowboys, Mims

Buzz about the Jets‘ first-round decision has pointed to a tackle-or-wide receiver dilemma. While the former scenario thus far has been the predicted route GM Joe Douglas will take in his first Jets draft, the team is high on Henry Ruggs, Ralph Vacchiano of SNY notes (video link). The Jets have eyed Ruggs throughout the pre-draft process. Smokescreens are common at this time, but it might not make much sense in this case. The Jets may not be able to afford to trade down from No. 11 overall, considering the draft’s top four tackles may all be gone by the middle of the first round.

Should Gang Green opt for a wide receiver, Ruggs has generally rated behind former Alabama teammate Jerry Jeudy and Oklahoma standout CeeDee Lamb in mock drafts. The Jets are believe to be Lamb fans as well. The 5-foot-11 Ruggs, however, has both easily beat in the speed department. The Jets recently signed deep threat Breshad Perriman to replace Robby Anderson and have slot cog Jamison Crowder under contract.

Here is the latest from the league’s wide receiver landscape:

  • On the subject of Ruggs, the Cowboys recently went through a video conference with the first-round talent, Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram tweets. Perhaps as an indication of the board the Cowboys expect to see when they pick at No. 17, Hill adds the team has not spoken with Lamb yet (Twitter link). It would certainly be interesting to see the Cowboys choose a wideout in Round 1, considering they just authorized a $20MM-per-year Amari Cooper pact.
  • One of this draft’s many receivers who figure to be off the board by the time the third round begins, Denzel Mims produced two 1,000-yard seasons while at Baylor. However, the 6-3 standout struggled with drops with the Bears. Mims played with a broken hand last season, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets, adding that he has discussed this issue with teams. With the NCAA not forcing teams to provide injury reports, players’ maladies can slip under radars far easier than they can in the NFL. After blazing to a 4.38-second 40-yard dash at the Combine, Mims will likely not have to wait too long Friday night — if indeed he escapes Round 1.
  • The Cardinals now have Larry Fitzgerald, DeAndre Hopkins and recent second-round picks Christian Kirk and Andy Isabella on their team. Kyler Murray has also lobbied for the team to draft Lamb — his college teammate — at No. 8 overall. It would be a surprise to see Arizona devote a high pick to a wideout this year, but Steve Keim did not rule out such a move. “You want to look at the long-term contracts you have in place, whether guys can play inside or outside,” Keim said. “If there is a player at the right spot, someone we are high on, we will certainly take advantage of that. Just because it seems on the surface we’re not as needy at wide receiver, that could change pretty quickly.”

Alabama WR Henry Ruggs To Enter Draft

There are now two Alabama junior wide receivers in the 2020 draft pool. Shortly after projected first-rounder Jerry Jeudy made his decision to enter the draft, Henry Ruggs is following suit.

Ruggs revealed Monday (via The Players’ Tribune) he will join Jeudy and Tua Tagovailoa in the draft. While Jeudy has been tabbed as a possible top-five pick, Ruggs is Mel Kiper Jr.’s No. 4 receiver prospect (13th overall). Kiper ESPN colleague Todd McShay has the speedster going 18th overall. Ruggs’ speed will enthrall Combine attendees; he was clocked in the mid-4.2-second range for the 40-yard dash at Alabama’s 2019 junior pro day.

The former four-star recruit did not flash statistically like Jeudy but may be the fastest player in the draft. Averaging 17.5 yards per catch for his career, the 6-foot Ruggs caught 24 touchdown passes and exceeded 700 yards in each of his final two Crimson Tide seasons. He suffered a concussion in the Citrus Bowl.

While Devonta Smith returning to school will prevent Alabama from having three wide receivers chosen in the first round, Jeudy and Ruggs going on Day 1 would be mark a rare occurrence. The last time two were drafted from the same school in Round 1 came in 2007, when LSU products Dwayne Bowe and Buster Davis joined Ohio State alums Ted Ginn and Anthony Gonzalez.

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