Henry Ruggs III has been a draft darling of Eagles fans for a few months now. Ruggs’ appeal is obvious: He has sub 4.3 speed and the Eagles seemingly need speed on offense more than anything else. Despite Ruggs only catching 40 passes in 2019 (the lowest figure among top receivers), he converted 17.5% of catches into touchdowns. That rate is higher than Jerry Jeudy and Justin Jefferson. They’re both higher volume receivers, so the efficiency disparity makes sense. However, compared to other “home run” types like Jalen Reagor and KJ Hamler who have low catch numbers; Ruggs still converted catches to touchdowns at a higher rate and had a significantly higher yards per catch rate. So while the worries about Ruggs’ low volume production at ‘Bama are valid, there is no doubt he maximized his touches in a very talented offense.
Ruggs’ speed makes people think of him as a deep threat, but that is a misconception. While Ruggs made an impact downfield at Bama, his real strength was turning short and intermediate passes into long gains and touchdowns. His instantaneous acceleration and uncanny ability to turn upfield after receptions makes him a touchdown threat from anywhere on the field. Ruggs’ weaknesses pertain mostly to his lack of downfield ball tracking skills and his size, which disadvantages him in contested situations. So his NFL transition will be about getting him the ball in the short passing game to get him going and making sure he still gets targets downfield to help develop that aspect of his game.
The competitive advantage of having Ruggs in the lineup is that he doesn’t need to be an effective downfield to spread a defense vertically. His YAC ability and the chance he catches a ball 20 yards deep means safeties will need to line up deeper and teams will general gameplan on preventing Ruggs from getting out in space. So he has an “off-ball” impact that could immediately help the Eagles. Ruggs makes a lot of sense for what the Eagles need and despite him needing to grow in key areas as a pro, he will quickly help the Eagles stretch a field on offense. He has proven he doesn’t need to see a lot of targets to be dangerous and similar to Desean Jackson in his prime, his mere presence on the field will help open up the field for Dallas Goedert, Zach Ertz and Miles Sanders.