4/23/20 Matt Gutierrez
“With the 12th pick in the 2020 NFL draft, the Las Vegas Raiders select…”
It was supposed to be a draft week complete with boat rides across the Bellagio fountains, a stage in front of the High Roller Ferris wheel, and a nonstop party along the Las Vegas Strip. Instead we saw coaches and GM’s sitting alone in their homes staring at monitors while the commissioner read the draft picks from his basement. On top of that, Roger Goodell let the world know that the NFL draft would be in Las Vegas for the 2022 season after missing out this year with the unfortunate pandemic sweeping the world.
Technical issues aside, the draft went fairly smoothly. The first pick in the history of the Las Vegas Raiders came at number 12. Wide Receiver has been the number one need for the Raiders leading up to the draft. The top three rated WR’s were CeeDee Lamb (Oklahoma), Jerry Jeudy (Alabama), and Henry Ruggs III (Alabama). All three were available when the Raiders turn in the draft came, and they wasted no time selecting Ruggs.
Ruggs is the fastest WR of the top three prospects. He ran a 4.27 at the combine which fell just short of the record time of 4.22. Critics were quick to point out the “Al Davis” type selection made by the Raiders in taking the “fastest guy” instead of “the best” guy. Some even compared Ruggs to Darrius Hayward Bey. Bey was drafted by the Raiders in 2009 after posting a 4.3 40 yard time. Unlike Bey, who was basically a go-rout specialist with bad hands, Ruggs is a complete WR possessing all the tools needed to be successful in the NFL. He can run the entire rout tree, has great hands, and can take a 5 yard slant to the end zone at any time.
Heading into the 2019 season, Jon Gruden thought he’d have Antonio Brown lined up on the outside. Much of his playbook was geared towards his new offensive weapon. But Brown turned the off-season into his own personal circus and never took a single snap as a Raider. Without a WR on the roster with the skill set of Brown, the playbook created for him was largely scrapped.
I expect to see a major portion of that playbook back in the fold with the addition of Ruggs. Jon Gruden is an exceptional play designer and excels at getting his play makers into space. Ruggs is the missing piece this Raiders offense needed. The Raiders struggled to sustain drives and put points on the board in 2019. They also lacked a true game breaking type weapon. Ruggs checks all the boxes.
Expect big things from the Raiders offense in 2020. They have one of the best tight ends in the NFL in Darren Waller, rookie of the year candidate running back, Josh Jacobs, and a solid offensive line. Derek Carr will be in his third season with the same offensive system for the first time in his career. There are zero excuses left for this team to put up points.
In a division where the Kansas City Chiefs are king, you need to be able to score. Henry Ruggs III may be the guy to get the Raiders over the hump and become a true offensive force in the AFC West.