Wide receiver, Alabama Crimson Tide
40 time: 4.27
A five-star prospect from Montgomery, Ala., Ruggs was named to the SEC All-Freshman team in 2017 as a return specialist before making a bigger mark in the passing game in 2018, when he snagged 46 passes for 741 yards and 11 scores. With very similar numbers last season (40-746-7), he finished his career averaging 17.5 yards per catch. Had two receptions and one rush of 70-plus yards in 2019.
As expected, Ruggs blazed the fastest 40-yard dash (4.27) at the NFL Scouting Combine, falling five hundredths short of John Ross’ record. He tweaked his quad, however, and did not participate in other drills.
Ruggs was perhaps the fastest player in college football, exploding off the line of scrimmage, instantly challenging vertically and thereby creating easy separation on underneath routes. Impressive balance and change of direction for a player with his explosive straight-line speed, snapping out of his breaks to give his quarterback wide-open passing lanes. Tracks the ball beautifully over either shoulder on deep balls, but is just as effective on underneath routes. Courageous in going over the middle and is more physical after the catch than his relatively slim frame and speed-demon reputation would suggest. His athleticism is not limited to purely speed, as he shows impressive timing, leaping ability and body control to contort to make difficult grabs in traffic. Three-year standout on special teams, as well, handling punt (18.4 yards per attempt) and kick returns (23.8) and contributing 14 tackles.
Like any sportscar, this speedster needs fine-tuning to be at his best, as Ruggs has struggled with various “minor” injuries, including a hip-pointer and bruised ribs in 2019. A bit reliant on his athleticism to get clear at the line of scrimmage, often resorting to a simple delayed skip-step to throw off corners’ attempts at a jam but also disrupting his timing with the quarterback as a result. Occasionally allows passes into his chest. More pesky than truly problematic as a downfield blocker. Played more of a complementary role — rather than being a true No. 1 target — for the supremely gifted Crimson Tide.
Will Fuller, Houston Texans — The ability to stretch the field vertically earned Fuller (who ran a 4.36 in the 40) the 21st selection in the 2016 draft. Expected to be a more polished overall receiver at similar points in their career, Ruggs projects as at least an instant deep threat and perhaps much, much more.
Projection: First round