In the run-up to Thursday’s NFL draft, rumors had circulated that Raiders general manager Mike Mayock would select Oklahoma wide receiver CeeDee Lamb with his top pick.
Most draft experts believed Lamb might still be available at No. 12, and he – along with Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy – was the most acclaimed wideout prospect. It was no secret the Raiders needed to improve at the position.
NBC Sports’ Peter King reported Mayock loved Lamb and believed Lamb was “the most complete receiver in the draft.”
Yet King also noted Raiders head coach Jon Gruden favored a different wideout: Jeudy’s teammate, Henry Ruggs III. It turns out Ruggs was the Raiders’ man.
With the 12th pick, the Raiders selected Ruggs, then added cornerback Damon Arnette of Ohio State with the 19th choice. The first-round duo fills the needs to upgrade at the team’s two biggest positions of need entering the 2020 season.
Ruggs, 5-foot-11 and 188 pounds, is the fastest of the top wideouts drafted. He calls himself an “explosive playmaker,” and the Raiders agree.
Said Mayock, of why he and Gruden selected Ruggs: “The distinguishing factor really was his speed, his explosion and his work ethic.”
Ruggs immediately gives the Raiders a deep threat who can stretch defenses. He’ll make secondaries pay for making mistakes.
“He can run the deep routes,” Mayock told reporters. “He also gets the manufactured touches, the bubble screens, the jet sweeps. I think if you force defenses to roll coverage, it opens up the run game. You respect our deep routes, it opens up (tight end) Darren Waller. I think it does an awful lot of things for us offensively.”
At Alabama, good things happened when Ruggs got the ball. As Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com noted, 24 of Ruggs’ 98 career catches produced touchdowns. About 35 percent of his catches went for 20 or more yards. He also had just one drop of a catchable pass.
Mayock said Ruggs was “one of the most competitive football players in the entire draft” and he’s “tough as nails.” The draft continues Friday and Saturday, with the Raiders having five more selections. The team next has the 80th, 81st and 91st overall choices, all in the third round.