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Which ‘Bama prospect would Rashad Johnson pick for Cardinals?

TUSCALOOSA, AL - NOVEMBER 24: Henry Ruggs III #11 of the Alabama Crimson Tide is tackled by Daniel Thomas #24 and Deshaun Davis #57 of the Auburn Tigers at Bryant-Denny Stadium on November 24, 2018 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Three Alabama Crimson Tide prospects could be in range for the Arizona Cardinals to select eighth overall in the 2020 NFL Draft, and Rashad Johnson has a favorite he’d like to see end up with his former NFL team.

Johnson, the Crimson Tide’s director of player development and a sideline reporter, said that receiver Henry Ruggs III stands out from Alabama’s more heralded prospects, receiver Jerry Jeudy and offensive tackle Jedrick Wills.

“I’ma tell you, out of those three guys … I like Henry Ruggs, man,” Johnson told Doug & Wolf of Arizona Sports. “The reason I like Henry Ruggs is because he does it all.

“I watched one game … He scores a touchdown, the very next kickoff he makes the tackle on the kickoff and the next punt … he goes and downs the ball inside the 10-yard line. Those types of players are rare.”

Of the three Alabama prospects, Wills is most often mocked to head to Arizona because of its need to protect second-year quarterback Kyler Murray.

Jeudy and Oklahoma receiver CeeDee Lamb are widely regarded as the two best receivers in the class, but Ruggs’ skillset might best change the complexion of head coach Kliff Kingsbury’s offense, Johnson said.

Ruggs ran a 4.27-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Draft Combine, and he would complement receiver DeAndre Hopkins outside, plus Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk inside.

“He’s going to learn from DeAndre, he doesn’t have to be No. 1,” Johnson said. “He’s going to learn from Larry, he doesn’t have to be No. 2. And then Christian Kirk is going to be right in the mix for two and three as well.

“He’s going to be a guy who can come in and play his role and give you guys utility plays and special teams and all the valuable things as a kick returner, punt returner. He’s just an all-around special guy who’s been through a lot and challenged in life. He’s one of those guys that I think when the spotlight hits him at the next level happens, he’s not going to change.”

Johnson said that Ruggs never got a big head through successes and always got his work done — even during a freshman year in 2017 that saw him make just 12 catches for 229 yards. Six of those touches went for touchdowns.

As a junior last season, Ruggs totaled 746 receiving yards and seven receiving touchdowns.

His stock has risen after his strong combine performance.

Johnson’s opinion of Ruggs mirrors that of Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy, who told Doug & Wolf in March that many within the Alabama program view the receiver as the most competitive player on the Crimson Tide’s roster.

“You can see the makeup of the player on the tape,” Nagy said. “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.”

That, and his underrated skill that meshes well with his speed, could make Ruggs a darkhorse to be the first receiver off the board on April 23.

“I guess the thing that gets me is when you look at his life, his life is a story,” Johnson said Thursday. “Came from Montgomery, (Ala.), not the best background. He’s lost some family members and friends along his journey. He wasn’t getting the buzz that he’s getting right now … he’s always been just this consistent guy who shows up every day that you just don’t have to worry about him.”


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