Background: A former five-star recruit at Robert E. Lee High School (AL), Ruggs III was the ultimate all-purpose threat. As a senior, he finished with 38 receptions for 639 yards and nine touchdowns, while also racking up another 446 yards and three scores on the ground. Ruggs III struggled with a lot of adversity during the months leading up to his arrival at Alabama. Also a star track athlete, he went on to break the Class 7A state record (10.58) in the 100-meter dash. On March 3, 2016, his best friend Roderic Scott was tragically killed in a one car accident while driving to attend a basketball game in the area.
His dear friend had just committed to continue his basketball career at Jacksonville State. Going forward, Ruggs III made a vow to honor his fallen friend. Whenever he scored a touchdown, he raises three fingers in the air as a signal to his Scott, who always pushed him to be his best and told him months before his decision that he’d soon become a member of the Crimson Tide even though Ruggs III originally committed to Florida State.
Playing in all 13 games as a true freshman, his career in Tuscaloosa started quickly. He finished with 12 catches for 229 yards, and a team-high six touchdown catches. Ruggs III continued to improve as a sophomore, collecting 741 yards on 46 catches and 11 scores. One of the most explosive options in the country, 13 of his catches logged 20-yards or more. His development continued as a junior where he totaled 40 catches for 746 receiving yards and seven touchdowns in 12 starts.
Scheme Fit: Versatile
Round Projection: Early-Mid 1st-Round
Absorbing Contact: Smaller stature, but Ruggs III body strength is vastly underrated. This trait also shows up in contested catch situations. Oncoming tacklers often bounce off of his body without impeding his running process as a result. Clean hits on him are often hard to come by because of his firmness while on the move. Breaking tackles are a huge part of his game once securing the catch and he’s able to unravel from them with ease. Even when coated by defenders, the threat of their presence doesn’t force him to become shy with using his hands to haul in catches.
Elite Burst/Route Over-exaggerations: Ruggs III is an absolute game changer who’s exceptional once the ball is in his hands. His instincts and feels as a runner are off the charts. He feels as if he can score whenever he gets his hands on the ball no matter the positioning on the field. Ruggs III has little regard for his body and will lay it all out on the line in order to pick up maximum yardage. As a route-runner, he utilizes supplementary head fakes and additional arm/shoulder movements in order to sell and persuade defenders every which way.
Flooring the Gas Pedal/Route Speed: The former Crimson Tide receiver has eye-popping straight line speed when given clear running lanes or coverage cushion. On quick patterns or tunnel screens, he has the footspeed and acceleration in order to leave defenders in the dust in a hurry. His dynamics as a running threat are elite and he’s a big play waiting to happen if given a hint of daylight. Ruggs III picks his feet up and puts them down at a rapid rate. He’s easily able to separate and pull away when in the clear and makes everyone else surrounding him look as if they are moving in slow motion.
First Level Traffic: He shows the ability to consistently defeat press coverage, but maintaining the win showed up as a problem often. Ruggs III has sudden movements at the line that help him win cleanly, but he was inconsistent with carrying out and finishing the rep. This was most evident when in stacked or slot alignments.
Scheme Creativity: The Tide scheme kept him on the move, which generated many touches form him. Used as the motioning option on jet sweeps and the chaser on the backside of bootlegs/rollouts, he was the beneficiary of many easy touches. Stacked alignments and pre-snap motions helped him remain clean and avoid challenges at the line from physical defenders. Remaining paired with a creative offensive coordinator will be a necessity for him in order to maximize his true value.
Route Physicality: His strength with the ball in his hands versus when without it are two totally different stories. He relies heavily on extra movements to create new planes for space when running routes. His physical presence and the ability to fight through contact on route stems are inconsistent. The good heavily outweighs the bad, but his lack of arm/hand usage in routes to fight through physicality is noticeable.
A match made in heaven for the Tide’s multi-level passing game, he dominated in multiple areas, but it’s his ability to rack up yards after the catch that made him a difference maker during his three-year career. His physicality levels in his route stems could serve to improve, but defensive coordinators will be hesitant to come down and challenge him because of the vertical dynamic associated with his game.
A much better route runner than given credit for, he has the ability to stop on a dime in order to change directions without any extra needed steps. Ruggs III can win in the short-to-intermediate areas of the field as well. His speed forces defenses to guard every blade of grass, but even when doing so, he can leave tread marks on the playing surface from how fast he runs in an instant, Ruggs III is in line to become a top-15 selection and a prospect that can be an instant impact type of threat because of how translatable his skill set is into today’s game.