The Las Vegas Raiders made Henry Ruggs III their first of two first-round picks in 2020, and he needs to produce at a high level in 2021.
With every wide receiver available in the 2020 NFL Draft, and the Las Vegas Raiders having a gaping hole at the position, many fans felt that the team was going to add CeeDee Lamb or Jerry Jeudy. However, it was Jeudy’s Alabama teammate that became the first wideout off the board, as Henry Ruggs III was selected with the No. 12 overall pick.
During his time at Alabama, Ruggs was a big-play machine, showing off blazing speed and the ability to beat teams deep at any time. It seemed like every time he touched the ball, he went for six, which is the kind of big-play ability that this franchise was lacking.
Unfortunately, it was a rough rookie season for Ruggs, who struggled to stay on the field and play consistent football. All told, Ruggs hauled in only 26 catches for over 400 yards and two touchdowns, which was not the production the Raiders were hoping for when they made him the first wide receiver taken in 2020.
Raiders need Ruggs to be true WR1 in 2021
Heading into Year 2, Ruggs is going to be expected to lead this group, as the unit lost Nelson Agholor to the New England Patriots this offseason. They did bring in Willie Snead and John Brown, but if this Raiders offense is going to do anything of substance, Ruggs has to prove why he was the No. 1 wide receiver taken last April.
A realistic expectation for Ruggs is for him to double his numbers from last year, which would give him around 50 catches for almost 900 yards. In addition, Ruggs needs to bump up the touchdown numbers, as he had only two last season, and one came at the last second against the New York Jets.
Mike Mayock has made his living after the first round as general manager of the Las Vegas Raiders, and Nate Hobbs could be another steal.
Ruggs has the talent and athleticism to be a special player at the NFL level, but we need to see more than we saw this past season. A full year in the system, and a more normal offseason is going to do wonders for him, as he continues to develop trust with starting quarterback Derek Carr.