Nick Saban Offers Unique Insight on Raiders’ Henry Ruggs

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Getty Alabama HC Nick Saban.

In a move that would’ve made the late Al Davis proud, the Las Vegas Raiders drafted the fastest player available in Henry Ruggs. The team lacked speed in 2019 and that shouldn’t be a problem going forward. However, focusing on speed has burned the Raiders in the past. Drafting Darrius Heyward-Bey with the seventh overall pick in 2009 was a huge mistake despite his 4.3 speed. Fortunately, Ruggs isn’t the next Heyward-Bey.

While he does have blazing speed, he also excels at the things that make a great wide receiver. His hands and his route running ability are not concerns. Wide receivers can also be divas as the Raiders are very aware of, but Ruggs’ college coach Nick Saban is sure that won’t be the case with him and praised what he can do besides run fast.

“It’s the mental and physical toughness,” Saban said in an interview with the Raiders on Tuesday. “He never complains about not getting the ball. He’ll do whatever you ask him to do, whether he has to block on a running play or an RPO or whatever it is. What I think people aren’t talking about is the mental and physical toughness that the guy has.”

Saban Praises Ruggs’ Character

Obviously, when you run a 4.27 40-yard dash, that’s most people are going to talk about, but Ruggs brings more to the table than that. Saban thinks the wide receiver could help the team in a number of ways.

“He’s a hard worker and a guy with great character who is a very explosive and talented guy,” Saban said. “He has great speed and is a good special teams player, which is unusual sometimes. He’s a receiver who can play gunner and is in on kickoffs. He has a lot of mental and physical toughness to him relative to the position. I think he’s what you would categorize as a speed receiver who can get on top of people running straight-line routes, but he drops his weight and gets out of breaks pretty good, too.”

It seems unlikely that the Raiders plan to use Ruggs too much on special teams due to how much he’ll play on offense. That said, it’s always a good sign when star players are willing to do the dirty work. The team has made it a point to go after players with high character. Ruggs should fit in just fine with the rest of the Raiders team.

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Is Ruggs the Next Tyreek Hill?

Considering the Raiders play in the same division as the Kansas City Chiefs, it’s easy to look at Ruggs and say he’s the next Tyreek Hill. However, there haven’t been a lot of players like that in the NFL. Ruggs’ ceiling is Hill, but he’s got a low floor. Some have compared him to Ted Ginn Jr. He was a speedster out of Ohio State and ended up being a top-10 pick. Ginn has stuck around in the NFL for over a decade and has had some decent seasons, but nothing close to what you’d want from a player drafted so high.

Ruggs is a cleaner prospect than Ginn was and should have a more productive career. DeSean Jackson is an interesting comparison as they’re both similarly sized and have ridiculous speed. Jackson was a really good player before he started getting hit with a lot of injuries. The Raiders wouldn’t be upset if Ruggs ended up playing at the same level.

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