It’s been widely assumed that the consensus top three wide receivers in this draft class would be gone by the time the Eagles pick at 21. The hope at the very least was that they would still be able to grab Justin Jefferson (the popular WR4) or have their pick of the rest of the litter.
But the closer we get to round one on Thursday night, it’s starting to feel more likely that Henry Ruggs III could fall to the Eagles pick. At the very least, we shouldn’t be treating him being off the board as the foregone conclusion it currently is.
Let’s do the math. First, nobody in the top 10 is going WR (probably), and the only team 11-20 that’s seemingly a lock to go wideout is the Raiders (though I’m hearing they could be late players to move on a QB—Tua?).
Let’s say that’s one WR off the board. The pivot point for this position in the draft comes with picks 11 (Jets) and 13 (49ers). While the Jets are routinely mocked a WR by national outlets, the feeling inside New York and of Joe Douglas in general is that a bookend left tackle for Darnold is the more likely move. Much of the same rings true for San Francisco—yeah a wide receiver makes sense there, but it’s far from the most likely move as is widely expected. If anything they’ll trade out of that pick to add additional picks on day two (they pick again at 31).
For the sake of argument, let’s say a wide receiver goes in only one of those two spots.
That leaves one of the three consensus top wideouts still available for picks 14-19; where none of Tampa, Denver, Atlanta, Dallas, Miami, or Vegas (who went WR at 12) are expected to go for receivers. While I often see a wideout mocked to Denver, they’re high on Courtland Sutton, and local outlets peg them as addressing the defense.
That leaves the possibility of Jacksonville going for WR at 20, or trading the pick to a team willing to move up for a receiver before Philly and Minnesota—two teams in clear need of help at receiver. While that seems like a safe-bet (any team who was ready to trade up for Jefferson would become even more bullish in a move for Ruggs) it’s far from a lock considering the level of prospect Jacksonville would be moving away from at 20 (Kinlaw, McKinley, Fulton, etc…).
If you don’t want to take me at my word when I say Ruggs being available at 21 is real scenario, two recently released mock drafts from Peter King and Mel Kiper have that exact scenario playing out.
This is how King’s mock goes:
- Jets go LT at 11
- Raiders go w/ Lamb at 12
- SF trades 13 to NE (who takes Tua)
- Denver takes Jeudy at 15
- Jags surprisingly take Justin Jefferson ahead of Ruggs at 20
Let’s settle on that last point for a moment, because the idea of Justin Jefferson being taken ahead of Ruggs has been gaining traction for a while now. Consider this tidbit from Bucky Brooks buried at the bottom of a recent notebook on NFL.com:
Although the former LSU standout has been viewed as a first-round talent for most of the pre-draft process, the buzz is building that he might be the third receiver taken in Round 1 on Thursday… While Henry Ruggs III has been widely penciled in as the presumptive WR3 in this draft class, Jefferson has been vaulting up the charts as more evaluators have gained an appreciation of his versatile game.
That’s information sourced directly back to current NFL scouts.
Truthfully, it wouldn’t be a total surprise to me if a team liked Jefferson’s profile more than a Ruggs simply because of his status as a safer, higher-floor player who should be a chains-mover over the middle, and potentially much more throughout his career. While it’s a profile that isn’t quite as sexy as Ruggs’ blazing speed, he possesses a versatile skillset that’s becoming more difficult to turn down as the draft approaches.
That’s the skinny. This wide receiver class is enamoring, but there aren’t as many teams in the first 20 picks that are likely to go the WR-route as is being mocked by the national media. On top of that, the growing consensus from evaluators seems to be that Justin Jefferson is essentially on that same tier 1 as Lamb, Jeudy and Ruggs.
I’m not saying it’s likely that Ruggs will slide to 21, but I certainly think it’s more likely than we’re being lead to believe. After all this stressing over whether to trade up for our guy, or having to trade down a few spots for Reagor or Mims, wouldn’t it be something if a prospect like Henry Ruggs fell into Howie’s lap?