The Las Vegas Raiders drafted Henry Ruggs III in order to keep up with the Joneses (e.g. the Chiefs speed) in the AFC West.
The NFL is a copycat league, as they say, and the Las Vegas Raiders admitted as much after making their first picks in the 2020 NFL Draft.
General manager Mike Mayock addressed reporters questions about the team’s first overall pick in the draft, which was used on Alabama wide receiver Henry Ruggs III. The draft’s fastest wide receiver was a premiere addition to the Raiders offense but he was also the first pass catcher off the board—over other heralded wideouts like CeeDee Lamb and ‘Bama teammate Jerry Jeudy. When asked about Ruggs over other options, Mayock said he was influenced by the Kansas City Chiefs ability to move the chains.
“All three wide receivers we felt were diverse and would bring different things to the Raiders,” said Mayock. I feel like Coach Gruden and that offensive staff is so good, they could have gotten the most out of all three of them.
“However, the distinguishing factor really was his speed, his explosion and his work ethic. When you’re in the division you’re in and you look at Kansas City and you look at what they have on offense and what their explosion looks like, we needed to get faster. We think his addition opens up our entire offense.”
The Chiefs, of course, are known for one of the NFL’s most potent offenses—perhaps the most dangerous—and that begins with Patrick Mahomes at quarterback. However, a major factor in the team’s ability to score so often is the presence of Tyreek Hill, a deep threat with blazing speed that defenses simply must account for on every play. The four-time Pro Bowler is the Chiefs best offensive weapon and is one of the league’s most valuable non-quarterbacks.
In the same way that Hill opens up the offense for others like Travis Kelce or Sammy Watkins or Damien Williams, the Raiders are hoping Ruggs can do the same. Tight end Darren Waller should enjoy more room to move at tight end with Ruggs around. It also can’t hurt to secure more targets for such a top-tier receiver, even if he’s not downfield every play, versus giving so many opportunities to the likes of Tyrell Willliams and Hunter Renfrow (a combined 135 targets).
Given Waller’s emergence, the talent of Josh Jacobs in the backfield, and now the drafting of Ruggs III (not to mention Lynn Bowden and Bryan Edwards), the Raiders have done well to establish some solid offensive weapons as they vie for bette positioning in the AFC West. Unfortunately the quarterback in Las Vegas remains the same which likely means the ceiling stays there, too.