Low target volume, high catch rate.
Ruckert’s hands are terrific—he hasn’t been given very many targets but he certainly made the most of them. There are a number of eye-popping one-handed receptions on his resume in traffic and in tight congestion and those plays, along with good concentration on tight-window throws (Clemson, 2020) showcase how impactful he can be when the field is congested. His hands and length offer a large catch radius to help out his quarterback in instances in which the throw isn’t made with precision accuracy.
Always a bridesmaid in the OSU passing offense but effort never waned.
I appreciate how hard Ruckert plays despite never being a focal point of the offense. He’s got very good functional strength for a player of his stature, he plays fast and with enthusiasm as a blocker and will be a stout presence on leveraged blocks on the edge. He’s not a mauler in the run game but his role, if crafted with angular blocks, will be an impactful one for the running game.
Concentration on throws outside his frame is excellent.
Some of the plays on the ball are worth putting up on a poster in your bedroom. He’s made one-handed efforts look easy and appears to have great hand-eye coordination to attack the football with his hands. He’s capable of high-pointing and elevating above the rim, although he’s not going to jump out of the gym.
Ohio State tight end Jeremy Ruckert projects as a viable threat in an NFL passing game. Ruckert’s development as the primary tight end for the Buckeyes has spanned over several seasons—he’s been an enticing complementary piece of the puzzle but never someone who was asked to serve in a starring role as a pass-catcher. Ruckert’s best season in that regard comes in 2021 as the fifth option in the offense behind star receivers Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson, Jaxson Smith-Njigba, and running back TreVeyon Henderson. But when Ruckert does allocate targets, he’s efficient in hauling in passes and with the spacing challenges posed by Ohio State’s 11-personnel grouping, Ruckert is usually isolated in a one-on-one matchup. He’s been a killer in the red zone, too (all five of his 2020 scores came in the red area).
In total, he hauled in 12 touchdown receptions in 51 career catches entering into his final contest, the 2022 Rose Bowl versus Utah. Many of those scores have come out of play-action, where Ruckert’s role as a blocker and his ability to climb to the second level on seal blocks can be well hidden and allow him to burst free on delayed releases out of stalk blocks and into the open. I think that Ruckert is a plus athlete for the position, or at least he plays like one. And with more freeing roles available to him in other offenses other than an OSU one that traditionally treats tight ends like afterthoughts, I think the ceiling is there for Ruckert to be a much better pro player than he is a college receiver.
In the blocking phases of the position, Ruckert is used often in split-flow fits and has the mass necessary to crack the end man on the line of scrimmage effectively. That experience will prove helpful as he looks to acclimate to an NFL responsibility that is likely to ask him to play in the box.
Ideal role: Starting tight end, featured move piece
Scheme tendencies: Split flow zone, 12-personnel-heavy groupings, vertical seam stretch in play-action.
Written by Kyle Crabbs
Games watched: Clemson (2020), Alabama (2020), Minnesota (2021), Oregon (2021), Penn State (2021), Nebraska (2021), Michigan State (2021), Michigan (2021)
Best Game Studied: Clemson (2020)
Worst Game Studied: Nebraska (2021)
Hands: See Above.
Route Running: Ruckert was quoted in the spring of 2021 to have been working to add more routes to his tree to spur on a more versatile role.
“It’s kind of the same stuff we’ve been doing,” said Ruckert. “It’s been in before, but we’re really focusing on it a lot more now and getting more opportunities. I think the biggest thing going into this year is just trying to give us more opportunities in the passing game because we’ve proven that we can produce and help this team in any way, especially in the passing game.”
Those efforts ultimately netted Ruckert about half of his career receptions in 2021, but I didn’t see a dramatically different role and usage. As is, I think he’s a spot receiver who should be asked to find soft spaces in zone and use his size to uncover.
Versatility: He’s been asked to do quite a bit as a blocker from a traditional Y-alignment, flexed in the slot, and serving as an F-tight end in the backfield. He’s got a lot more potential in the passing game than he’s been able to prove, too. I think he can be a very strong two-phase player at the position.
Competitive Toughness: See Above.
Ball Skills: See Above.
Blocking Skills: NFL size and a pro-ready frame will allow him the chance to command reps quickly once he makes the leap to the pros. This is a willing and enthusiastic blocker, too—a cherry on top for a promising but underutilized receiving threat. Ruckert has plenty of success in combination blocks and inserts to win real estate or seal an inside gap in the run game, placing his head in the right position to seal and ensure defenders falling off his block have to work under his frame to scrape to the ball.
Football IQ: His lack of production is frustrating and the transition of OSU tight ends will be difficult to ignore—there have been a number of Buckeye tight ends who have found sledding rough with a leap to NFL systems. I’d like to think that won’t be an issue for Ruckert given his role as a move-piece that has taken reps all over the field and in the backfield, suggesting his pallet for multiple roles is firm enough that his exposures have prepped him for NFL life.
RAC Ability: I don’t think he’s necessarily a rare, explosive mismatch athlete. He’ll be well regarded as a quality athlete for the position, but he’s not going to terrorize defenders with the ball in his hands, he’s not going to consistently pull away from linebackers after the catch, and he doesn’t showcase a great deal of creativity with the ball.
Pass Protection: Ruckert has shown himself capable of winning with his hand in the dirt or attached as a sniffer to the set in protection, although he’s certainly not immune from getting his base broken down by more powerful defenders on the line of scrimmage and his recovery ability in these instances isn’t going to save him when this occurs. He’ll be best served as a help blocker for tackles and running backs and not asked to serve in a solo assignment role in the protection.
Big Play Ability: If you need a tightly-contested reception, you’d do well to throw to Ruckert if the defender has their back turned. He’s got good concentration and strong hands to squeeze the ball, making him dangerous and valuable in the red area. But expecting him to help create explosive plays in the passing game may be an ambitious ask.
TDN Consensus: 77.08/100 (Third Round Value)
Crabbs Grade: 77.50/100
Marino Grade: 78.00/100
Harris Grade: 74.00/100
Sanchez Grade: 76.50/100
Weissman Grade: 78.50/100
Parson Grade: 78.00/100