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NFL Draft scouting profile: Senior Bowl’s Nagy on WR Henry Ruggs III

Alabama wide receiver Henry Ruggs III runs the 40-yard dash at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

With an aggressive start to the 2020 league year, the Arizona Cardinals don’t have desperate needs to fill with the No. 8 pick in the NFL Draft.

A diverse middle-rung of prospects will be available in that range.

Senior Bowl executive director and long-time NFL scout Jim Nagy isn’t buying what the mock drafts are selling. He thinks the Cardinals should heavily consider picking defensive tackles Derrick Brown or Javon Kinlaw, or Alabama wide receiver Henry Ruggs.

Specifically, Nagy has strong views on Ruggs. A darkhorse to become the first receiver off the draft board, the Alabama product is regarded as less of a sure thing than Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb or Crimson Tide teammate Jerry Jeudy.

Here is Nagy’s sell on Ruggs.

Alabama WR Henry Ruggs, 6-foot, 190 pounds

Ruggs is most well-known for his speed. He cooked at the NFL Combine, posting a 4.25-second 40-yard dash to cement himself as a top-tier weapon in a deep — nay, thicc — class of wideouts.

Nagy believes centering the discussion around Ruggs’ speed stereotypes him. To Nagy, Ruggs has the tools to be a complete NFL deep threat. But yeah, he’s fast.

“I think Ruggs is the best receiver in this class, just from a play-making ability standpoint,” Nagy told Doug & Wolf on Arizona Sports. “The trendy thing right now is you hear a lot of people around the league trying to find another Deebo Samuel. To me, what that means is you want a guy that can make plays with the ball in his hands.

“… from the outside looking in, a lot of people just see that Henry ran a 4.25 and they kind of want to pigeonhole him as just a speed receiver. Obviously 4.25 is blazin’, but he’s not your typical one-trick pony vertical guy. He can run every route, he’s a great athlete. If you’ve ever YouTubed his high school basketball stuff, it’s just nuts.”

As a junior, Ruggs was third on Alabama in total receiving yards, finishing 2019 with 746. Jeudy, by the way, was only second with 1,163 and behind DeVonta Smith’s 1,256.

But for a dominant passing attack, Ruggs averaged 18.6 yards per reception, finishing seven of his 40 catches with a touchdown.

While he was rarely challenged in terms of contested catch physicality because of his speed, Ruggs may have to adjust in the NFL, writes The Draft Network’s Benjamin Solak.

Locates the deep bomb quickly and will aggressively work to the football through contact. Prefers to run under passes down the field, however, and must become better at attacking deep balls as an alpha in the air, with his hips toward the line of scrimmage. Must learn how to work back to the football at times across the middle of the field and develop a more immediate instinct for quick-breaking passes during which the ball gets on top of him early.

Ruggs has soft, reliable hands and by most accounts his speed will translate to the NFL game.

Nagy likes his intangibles. Ruggs also played as a gunner on special teams, and that’s where Nagy sees the receiver’s drive.

He doesn’t scoff at special teams duty, Nagy said.

If the Cardinals were to take Ruggs in the draft and pair him alongside DeAndre Hopkins, Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk, he would not only complement the others arguably better than the other draft options but be empowered even if the ball doesn’t go his way.

Ruggs surprises on film with his ability and willingness to block and do the stuff receivers don’t get the credit for.

“It’s one things to be on special teams, it’s another to make plays on special teams,” Nagy said. “Henry runs down and makes plays on special teams. You’re not dealing with the typical wide receiver mindset. You’re dealing with a different dude.

“You can see it on the tape. You can see the makeup of the player on the tape. When you go in to Tuscaloosa … To a man (of people you ask), he is the most competitive kid in that program. That’s saying a lot. Henry’s wired the right way. He loves football.”

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