Henry Ruggs is Much More Than Speed

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Cameron Giles
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Henry Ruggs is Much More Than Speed

Postby Cameron Giles » Mon Mar 30, 2020 4:26 pm

Even though I like a lot of players, each year I try to highlight one player each draft.

2019: Marquise Brown: viewtopic.php?f=5&t=180837
2017: Isaiah Ford: viewtopic.php?f=5&t=138337
2016: Michael Thomas: viewtopic.php?f=5&t=115256
2015: Tyler Lockett: viewtopic.php?f=5&t=99887

I've been sitting on a writeup of Henry Ruggs for a while. During the college season, I made up my mind that I was going to do this year's on K.J. Hamler (who I still think is great value at what I expect his ADP to be), but Ruggs is a much more fascinating case.

Let's get the most popular criticism out of the way first.

If Ruggs is such a good prospect, then why didn't he produce at Alabama?

Ruggs was the tertiary option in Alabama's offense and wasn't ready to be counted on early as a big-time contributor. I think this is the easy, lazy, and accurate answer.

Throughout his three years, he played with Calvin Ridley, Jerry Jeudy, DeVonta Smith, Jaylen Waddle, and Irv Smith Jr. This doesn't even include Josh Jacobs, Najee Harris, and Damien Harris at RB. It's normal for Alabama to be luxurious in talent, but they're concluding one of the all-time best stretches of college and pro offensive talent. The closest run I can remember is Sammy Watkins, DeAndre Hopkins, Dwayne Allen, Andre Ellington, Martavis Bryant, and Mike Williams on Clemson from 2011-2013. This is one of the most obvious examples of diluted production that we've seen.

Ruggs is not going to grade out well in advanced stats, but he's plentiful in traits and improvement that can translate to the next level.

If Ruggs was underutilized, then what evidence is there that he could've produced as the guy in college and can produce as a featured talent in the pros? He's just a speed receiver.

Pro Football Focus' attack zone heat map gives us a good idea of where Ruggs lined up last year in Alabama's offense and where most of his routes were.

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Ruggs usually lined up on the outside and the right side of the field and attacked outside of the hashmarks more often than Jeudy did. This is pretty noteworthy given that Jeudy is considered by many to be the best WR in this class. The threat of Ruggs' speed and downfield ability opened up more room for a talent like Jeudy to dominate inside from the slot. 69% (nice) of Jeudy's production came in the slot. Not only that, but Ruggs was more susceptible to facing press coverage or unfavorable matchups. Still, Ruggs saw only one drop all year on his targets.

Considering that, Ruggs wasn't just used for tactical value on the field. Alabama trusted Ruggs to run just as diverse a route tree as their featured WR Jeudy:

Pro Football Focus shows us a chart that gives us a look into the percentage of targets a WR got by route over the last two seasons.

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Keep in mind that if Ruggs were just a deep threat WR, then his route tree would likely lineup closer to Tee Higgins and Denzel Mims.

Why does route diversity matter? Because most (if not all) of the top WRs in the pros can beat you in multiple ways.

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This is a list of PFF's top-graded WRs last year in the NFL. Outside of Mike Evans (who is just a freak of nature), it's a list full of players who can beat you in so many different ways.

Not only was Ruggs just as diverse as Jeudy, but he is one of the best in the class in terms of his route diversity. Ruggs is not going to be entering the NFL as a raw route runner, or a one-trick pony. He's going to potentially have a leg up on some of the rookies, who were pigeonholed into their usage.

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This leads us into why Ruggs may become a big deal at the next level:

Elite Speed and Short Area Burst:Image
If you followed my thread on Marquise Brown last year, then this is very similar. Both Ruggs and Brown have an ability to turn routine plays into chunk plays. Ruggs hits top-end speed at an unreal level, and can pluck-and-run with the best of them. Here, Ruggs turns a five-yard crossing route into a crowd of 5-6 defenders, into a touchdown. Obviously, there's going to be more speed on an NFL field, but Ruggs simply has too much speed and short-area burst to be handled.

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Even from behind the line of scrimmage, if you give Ruggs too much room, he has the potential to make you pay in immense ways. There simply aren't many NFL players who are capable of these types of plays.

Improved route running:
Ruggs has developed noticeably as a route runner. While he's not the technical cheat code that Jerry Jeudy is, he's improved significantly at varying his speed and playing with suddenness. A lot of scouts still want to see consistently better releases and more physical play against press, but it's hard not to be encouraged by where he's at right now.

Again, the narrative that Ruggs is just a raw deep threat, is absolutely not true.

(Credit to Brad Kelly for these videos)
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Bonus observations
- 24 touchdowns on 98 receptions, which is absolutely ridiculous. Some players just have a nose for the endzone.
- 91st percentile hand size, which is a big plus for a WR under 6'0
- Good vertical athlete, even though you don't see it enough each game. I think people want to see more plays like these where he high points. This is an interesting part of his game that I think he can unlock, though I don't see him ever being high volume at it.
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Stock Rising
Matt Miller wrote:So how do we know Ruggs won't suffer the same fate as guys like Ross? That's simple. Trust the on-field results, not the hundredths of a second on a stopwatch.

Speed is Ruggs' best attribute as a receiver, of course. He was once clocked at 23.27 miles per hour in a game by wearable GPS trackers. When Ruggs catches a screen pass, defenders often immediately take two steps backward so he doesn't blow past them, creating easy yards-after-catch opportunities. And press coverage is almost never an option.

But Ruggs also has very good hands. He's a feisty, capable blocker. He has been durable through three seasons as a receiver and returner in the grueling SEC. His route running needs refinement, but he's not some guy who just traded his running shoes for cleats on Sundays.
Greg Cosell wrote:Ruggs has the dimension that every team wants: speed and vertical dimension. Ruggs is as explosive a WR as I've seen in recent years with his combination of short area burst and instant acceleration. He can line up in multiple positions and work all three levels of coverage especially effective against man coverage. The tape showed Ruggs to be more than just a speed receiver with his understanding of route running detail (although not on the same level as Jerry Jeudy)
Daniel Jeremiah wrote:I wouldn’t be shocked at all if Henry Ruggs ends up being the 1st WR drafted.

Ruggs has an unbelievable blend of speed and toughness. He lines up outside and in the slot. He ran a lot of slants and take-off routes in Alabama's offense -- and he was special on both. Ruggs boasts world-class speed -- he truly explodes off the line and after the catch. He needs to continue to refine his releases against press (he gives up his chest too often), but not many defenses will want to take that chance against his speed. His hands are good, not great, and he does allow too many balls into his chest. After the catch, he runs away from most defenders while occasionally running through them. He is outstanding on jet sweeps and also has kick-return value. Overall, Ruggs has Tyreek Hill-type ability. He will be a matchup nightmare every week.
TLDR:
I think Ruggs does have WR1 upside, though not as much as the top names in this class like Jeudy or Lamb. Hopefully he doesn't land with a miserable offensive mind like Adam Gase. I won't go as far as to call Ruggs situation-proof, but I do think he needs a coach who has a grasp on modern NFL offense. I've seen some comments on him comparing him Darrius Heyward-Bey, but DHB was really raw as a WR and put into an awful situation to develop.

Ruggs enters the league as a highly-talented, multi-level threat, with big play ability, reliable hands, and on the upswing with his route running. There's a noticeable amount of pessimism on his game, so I would definitely be interested in the range he's going to go 1.07-1.12 in this class.
Last edited by Cameron Giles on Mon Mar 30, 2020 9:02 pm, edited 5 times in total.

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Re: Henry Ruggs is Much More Than Speed

Postby Finfansteve » Mon Mar 30, 2020 5:30 pm

This is fantastic. Well thought out, reasoning is sound, and very informative. You spent a lot of time on this and changed my mind on Ruggs. I appreciate all the work you did on this!

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Re: Henry Ruggs is Much More Than Speed

Postby Blueboy » Mon Mar 30, 2020 5:34 pm

Great post man, you've got me pretty close to moving him up to WR3. Let's hope NYJ doesn't pull the trigger.

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Re: Henry Ruggs is Much More Than Speed

Postby Johnny B. Goode » Mon Mar 30, 2020 5:41 pm

Great work. I disagree on him being worth drafting, but I appreciate the effort and the reasoning.
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Re: Henry Ruggs is Much More Than Speed

Postby dlf_mikeh » Mon Mar 30, 2020 5:44 pm

This is great stuff. You're one of the people I follow on these forums and this is the reason why. I drafted Marquise Brown last year because of that thread.
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Re: Henry Ruggs is Much More Than Speed

Postby Ice » Mon Mar 30, 2020 6:02 pm

Ruggs has been my top WR for quite a while based on my film study. Your post confirms he is multidimensional player with great hands and elite speed.

Hoping he falls to the Cowboys but my guess is the scouts are drooling over this player who may ultimately have more raw skill than Tyreek Hill and won't fall that far.

Just imagine his stats if lined up on the other side of a left handed QB. Teams are going to love his ability to beat press in the blink of an eye. He has no tells in his routes and is so smooth people think he is faking it. Way more than just a deep threat.

Thanks for the post!
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Re: Henry Ruggs is Much More Than Speed

Postby pvillebiker » Mon Mar 30, 2020 6:48 pm

Wow, what a great and informative piece. Thank you Cameron. I've a ton of picks in my SF league for a rebuilding team with a bare WR cupboard. Marquise Brown is my WR1 and Sanders as my RB1.

I've the 1.02 and 1.04. Been debating who to target with my 1.08 / 2.01 / 2.02 picks among Reagor, Ruggs, Higgins and Jefferson.

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Re: Henry Ruggs is Much More Than Speed

Postby FantasyFreak » Mon Mar 30, 2020 6:55 pm

Great in depth piece, but still nota fan of this player beyond the fact he will be drafted in rookie drafts, pushing a player I like further down. I'm fine missing on Ruggs if he hits, I can't justify spending a mid first on a guy who never broke out with so many other talented players this year.
Last edited by FantasyFreak on Mon Mar 30, 2020 7:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Henry Ruggs is Much More Than Speed

Postby FantasyFreak » Mon Mar 30, 2020 6:57 pm

Ice wrote:
Mon Mar 30, 2020 6:02 pm
Ruggs has been my top WR for quite a while based on my film study. Your post confirms he is multidimensional player with great hands and elite speed.

Hoping he falls to the Cowboys but my guess is the scouts are drooling over this player who may ultimately have more raw skill than Tyreek Hill and won't fall that far.

Just imagine his stats if lined up on the other side of a left handed QB. Teams are going to love his ability to beat press in the blink of an eye. He has no tells in his routes and is so smooth people think he is faking it. Way more than just a deep threat.

Thanks for the post!
I'm pretty sure they could have lined him up on the other side of Tua had they so desired. I hope you aren't suggesting the reason his stats were so low is because he had the misfortune of having a left handed QB. (who happened to be one of the best college QB's in years)

Ruggs seems to be one of the most polarizing players in this class. I am not a fan, but there doesn't seem to be a lot of middle ground. People seem to really like him, or really don't like him. I have a tough time seeing him as a WR1 in an offensive scheme, so I will refrain from spending the draft capital required on him. If Ruggs hits, he will be an outlier, but it's certainly possible he becomes one.

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Re: Henry Ruggs is Much More Than Speed

Postby Ice » Mon Mar 30, 2020 7:30 pm

FantasyFreak wrote:
Mon Mar 30, 2020 6:57 pm
Ice wrote:
Mon Mar 30, 2020 6:02 pm
Ruggs has been my top WR for quite a while based on my film study. Your post confirms he is multidimensional player with great hands and elite speed.

Hoping he falls to the Cowboys but my guess is the scouts are drooling over this player who may ultimately have more raw skill than Tyreek Hill and won't fall that far.

Just imagine his stats if lined up on the other side of a left handed QB. Teams are going to love his ability to beat press in the blink of an eye. He has no tells in his routes and is so smooth people think he is faking it. Way more than just a deep threat.

Thanks for the post!
I'm pretty sure they could have lined him up on the other side of Tua had they so desired. I hope you aren't suggesting the reason his stats were so low is because he had the misfortune of having a left handed QB. (who happened to be one of the best college QB's in years)

Ruggs seems to be one of the most polarizing players in this class. I am not a fan, but there doesn't seem to be a lot of middle ground. People seem to really like him, or really don't like him.
The more one studies teams the more one realizes they have base offense sets much like a defense has a base 3/4 or 4/3 defense.

What a team could have done and what they actually do is very different. When I scout players I track how they line up and focus how well they cut off either foot.

When one studies a team's #1 WR by the same token in the NFL most line up on the players throwing arm side a larger percentage of the time.

Ruggs looks great on the right side.

No issues if you disagree just something I started looking at years ago that I picked up from an NFL Head Coach. Tendencies matter; Bama is so good they run a fairly complex system but its out of a pretty basic offensive set.

To use baseball as an example, you will never see a lefty play 2nd, SS or third base. The reason is those 10ths of a seconds matter. In football they call it the blind side because a RH QB is looking to the right side more often. It's why LT's make so much money. Believe it or not I see a correlation with WR's.

The ones that look great on the off side arm are ones I mark up some. DK was one last year that was really good on the off side throwing arm.

I can't imagine anyone not liking Ruggs with his game tape. I can see people liking others better but scouting a player is not about the gross body of work but what they actually do with the body of work provided.

BTW, I don't see low stats at all. I see massive production given the targets he received. When I broke down his routes I saw elite skills all over the place. That is why I rate him so high. The fact he run and jump out of the gym so to speak is a huge bonus. One can count on 1 hand the DB's that can run with him.
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Re: Henry Ruggs is Much More Than Speed

Postby cantguardjake » Mon Mar 30, 2020 7:57 pm

I like Ruggs game tap for a mid second, he’s raw and doesn’t separate nearly as much as his speed suggests he should. His athletic profile is worth a flier but he’ll probably go much earlier than he should in most rookie drafts.

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Re: Henry Ruggs is Much More Than Speed

Postby PR0v3 » Mon Mar 30, 2020 7:59 pm

FantasyFreak wrote:
Mon Mar 30, 2020 6:57 pm
Ice wrote:
Mon Mar 30, 2020 6:02 pm
Ruggs has been my top WR for quite a while based on my film study. Your post confirms he is multidimensional player with great hands and elite speed.

Hoping he falls to the Cowboys but my guess is the scouts are drooling over this player who may ultimately have more raw skill than Tyreek Hill and won't fall that far.

Just imagine his stats if lined up on the other side of a left handed QB. Teams are going to love his ability to beat press in the blink of an eye. He has no tells in his routes and is so smooth people think he is faking it. Way more than just a deep threat.

Thanks for the post!
I'm pretty sure they could have lined him up on the other side of Tua had they so desired. I hope you aren't suggesting the reason his stats were so low is because he had the misfortune of having a left handed QB. (who happened to be one of the best college QB's in years)

Ruggs seems to be one of the most polarizing players in this class. I am not a fan, but there doesn't seem to be a lot of middle ground. People seem to really like him, or really don't like him. I have a tough time seeing him as a WR1 in an offensive scheme, so I will refrain from spending the draft capital required on him. If Ruggs hits, he will be an outlier, but it's certainly possible he becomes one.
An outlier (if he hits) from a breakout age/dominator perspective perhaps, but not really an outlier from a draft capital/skills analysis perspective.

He’ll be my desired target at 1.10 if the draft capital is what many think it will be. The context of his situation cannot be ignored, and he appears to be far more capable than just running straight. He’s exactly the type of player I’d want to target outside the top few picks. All signs point to him being significantly undervalued.
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Re: Henry Ruggs is Much More Than Speed

Postby OhCruelestRanter » Mon Mar 30, 2020 8:22 pm

This is really thorough. Thank you! I have no idea where to put Ruggs without knowing his draft spot. I think your take that he’s better than credited, but probably not better than Jeudy, is likely the correct one.

I have a question for you about route diversity. Do you have any evidence that it matters? I know intuitively we want wide receivers to be able to effectively run every route, but is there any evidence that a college prospect’s route diversity correlates at all with NFL or fantasy success?
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Re: Henry Ruggs is Much More Than Speed

Postby Cameron Giles » Mon Mar 30, 2020 9:11 pm

OhCruelestRanter wrote:
Mon Mar 30, 2020 8:22 pm
This is really thorough. Thank you! I have no idea where to put Ruggs without knowing his draft spot. I think your take that he’s better than credited, but probably not better than Jeudy, is likely the correct one.

I have a question for you about route diversity. Do you have any evidence that it matters? I know intuitively we want wide receivers to be able to effectively run every route, but is there any evidence that a college prospect’s route diversity correlates at all with NFL or fantasy success?
There's not enough information to do a statistical study on it, but from a practical sense, a WR who has years of running a bigger route tree at multiple levels of the field in college should have some sort of advantage in transitioning to the NFL. Tyler Lockett and Michael Thomas immediately come to mind for me. That's not to say that you can't develop it though.

I think it matters, because it potentially impacts draft pedigree, which is a big factor.

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Re: Henry Ruggs is Much More Than Speed

Postby Cameron Giles » Mon Mar 30, 2020 9:22 pm

cantguardjake wrote:
Mon Mar 30, 2020 7:57 pm
I like Ruggs game tap for a mid second, he’s raw and doesn’t separate nearly as much as his speed suggests he should. His athletic profile is worth a flier but he’ll probably go much earlier than he should in most rookie drafts.
He's not raw at all though; he needs refinement. Big difference.

The missing piece to Ruggs are the releases. I was watching some of the Rams/Chiefs game they re-aired tonight from a few years ago, and the releases Tyreek Hill was getting off the line are just flat out stupid. You can't guard him if he's beating you off the line like that.

When a WR can get great releases off the line and has the elite speed and acceleration to diminish a DB's recovery, it's a wrap. Ruggs has that type of upside. He has the tools to do it, it's just a matter of if it comes to fruition or not. He's shown the flashes in some of the clips I posted.

Getting a player like that in the mid-2nd is a no-brainer, but while this is a good and deep class, I do not think there are that amount of players who project better than Ruggs.

This isn't the case of a WR needing to learn how to play football from the ground up like Cordarrelle Patterson or something.


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