Henry Ruggs Won’t Break the Trend of Speedy NFL Draft Busts

Henry Ruggs turned his speed into a first-round selection in Thursday’s NFL draft. The 5-foot-11 Ruggs, who ran a 4.27 unofficial 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine earlier this year, will spend the next few years in a Raiders uniform.

Ruggs was the 12th overall selection in Thursday’s NFL Draft.

Henry Ruggs not only has the opportunity to burn defenses, but he can break a recent trend against receivers with his skill set. While Ruggs can be a dangerous player with the __, the odds are stacked against him not being yet another receiver bust.

Henry Ruggs was a dangerous weapon at Alabama

It is impossible to dispute Henry Ruggs wasn’t an explosive receiver in college. Ruggs averaged 17.5 yards per reception in three seasons at Alabama and turned 24 of his 98 career catches into touchdowns. That means Ruggs scored a touchdown on one of every four catches.

For comparison, Alabama teammate Jerry Jeudy caught 26 passes on 159 catches, which is a 16.3% ratio. Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb averaged a touchdown on 22.5% of his catches, or 32 touchdowns on 173 receptions.

Does that mean Henry Ruggs is bound to be a star? Well, not quite. Although Ruggs played in a loaded Alabama offense, it is fair to wonder why he only averaged 43 catches the last two years. Ruggs was a playmaker when he had the ball, yet he didn’t total as many receptions as one would think.

The NFL draft hasn’t been kind to recent first-round receivers

Alabama receiver Henry Ruggs III averaged 17.5 yards per catch in college. Ruggs has the makings of a bust at the NFL level, though.
Alabama receiver Henry Ruggs III averaged 17.5 yards per catch in college. Ruggs has the makings of a bust at the NFL level, though. | Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Henry Ruggs immediately faces a tough road to succeeding in the NFL. The receivers selected with a first-round pick have mostly been average at best in recent years. Although the three top-10 selections in 2017 — Western Michigan’s Corey Davis, Clemson’s Mike Williams, and Cincinnati’s John Ross — have flashed at times, they certainly haven’t lived up to where they were drafted.

Williams averaged 20.4 yards per catch last year and topped 1,000 receiving yards, but only hauled in 49 passes on a bad Chargers team.

Houston’s Will Fuller is the only one of the four receivers taken in 2016’s first-round who is still with his original team. Kevin White and Nelson Agholor never lived up to expectations in Chicago and Philadelphia, respectively, and they’re the only two of the four receivers from 2015’s first round worth mentioning.

Amari Cooper has turned into an All-Pro caliber receiver in Dallas and Marquise Brown impressed in Baltimore last year. But the odds are stacked against receivers selected on the NFL draft’s first night.

Can Henry Ruggs break theNFL draft’s speedy receiver trend?

Late Raiders owner Al Davis loved drafting quicker receivers over more talented, polished players. Oakland selected the likes of Darrius Heyward-Bey and Jacoby Ford because of their speed.

Henry Ruggs has the speed that Davis would have been attracted to. But like John Ross, Henry Ruggs isn’t worth a first-round pick if he is going to catch less than 30 passes per season. While Ross averaged 18.1 yards per reception last year, his 28 catches are nothing for a first-round pick in his third season.

Ross has also struggled to stay healthy. The 5-foot-11 receiver played 24 games in three years and might not be a Bengal much longer. Heyward-Bey remained on the field in Oakland, though he didn’t complete his rookie contract with the Raiders.

The Raiders hope they found a gem in Henry Ruggs. But the recent history of first-round receivers, especially those drafted because of their speed, succeeding in the NFL makes it hard to be optimistic about Ruggs’ NFL future.