Two players caught the eye more than most in the 2020 NFL Draft after being selected with the 12th and 15th picks. Wide receivers Henry Ruggs and Jerry Jeudy came off the board in the same region of the draft due to their excellence in their respective college careers.
Ruggs and Jeudy both played for the Alabama Crimson Tide alongside fifth-overall pick Tua Tagovailoa. Both wideouts were hyped up during the selection process and they were rightfully taken in the first round, although notably after the quarterback that allowed them to thrive for Nick Saban’s men.
Now Ruggs and Jeudy find themselves on different teams in the AFC West – it will be fascinating to watch which player is able to enjoy the best rookie season.
Ruggs was the first wide receiver off the board with the 12th overall selection by the Oakland Raiders. The 21-year-old was extremely productive at Alabama, recording 1,716 receiving yards from 98 receptions and 24 touchdowns during his time in Tuscaloosa. He has solid measurements of 6ft and 190lbs, leaving him in the mould of the likes of Antonio Brown. Ruggs is a speed burner down the sidelines and a technician with his route-running, allowing him to get open with ease.
His pace is perhaps his best attribute, running a 4.27 40-yard dash at the NFL combine, and should allow him to thrive for the Raiders. Ruggs has a good quarterback in the form of Derek Carr, while he will not be the primary weapon on the offense – that will fall to Pro Bowl tight end Darren Waller. The pressure will be eased from his shoulders, but between the quarterback and an excellent offensive mind in head coach Jon Gruden he should be on course for a 1,000-yard season in his debut campaign that could see him be propelled towards the offensive rookie of the year award.
Jeudy was taken with the 15th selection by the Denver Broncos after he also excelled at the Crimson Tide. He had the superior statistics to Ruggs during their college careers, surpassing 1,000 yards in his last two seasons, becoming the reliable option for Tagovailoa and Mac Jones in 2019. Over the course of his three-year tenure at Alabama, he notched 159 receptions for 2742 yards and 26 touchdowns.
Jeudy is not as fast as Ruggs, but is the more polished route-runner, being able to create separation with craft and guile. Denver have a quarterback on the rise in Drew Lock, who displayed promise in his rookie season. They could be an outsider in the NFL picks to reach the post-season in 2020 after failing to reach the playoffs since their Super Bowl win five years ago.
Courtland Sutton and Noah Fant will be the top two targets in the Broncos’ offense – therefore Jeudy will have time to settle and find his way. It would not be a surprise to see him near the 1,000-yard marker, although Ruggs may have a better opportunity given the Raiders have fewer weapons than the Broncos. Whichever rookie makes the most meaningful impact could dictate whether the Broncos or the Raiders head to the post-season in January.