Drafting a receiver may seem like a luxury the Titans can’t afford, but is Henry Ruggs too good to pass up?
The Tennessee Titans did not roll out a top-shelf, high-production passing attack in 2019, despite strong play from quarterback Ryan Tannehill. They probably won’t again in 2020, but if the Titans were to use the upcoming draft to add a player like Henry Ruggs, they would have the pass-catching talent to virtually throw the ball at will.
I should be clear that Arthur Smith has shown that even with the right pieces, you shouldn’t expect the Titans to stray too far away from their run first identity.
With all this offseason chatter about who the Titans starting quarterback will and should be in 2020, it’s important to keep one thing in mind. No matter who it is, they probably won’t give Tennessee an elite passing attack.
An air-raid, Kansas City Chiefs-style offense simply doesn’t fit with the roster that Jon Robinson has assembled through his five years as general manager.
That offensive line-oriented, run-heavy approach to Robinson’s reconstruction of the Tennessee roster has aligned with the vision of head coach Mike Vrabel, and has paid off with great dividends for the Titans, but it hasn’t and won’t ever produce the most volume heavy aerial attack.
But what the Titans passing attack has been (at least this past year) is efficient.
They did not throw a ton, but thanks to four consistent years of strong drafting and free-agent signings, the Titans have built a pass-catching corps with AJ Brown, Adam Humphries, and tight end Jonnu Smith with the ability to make the most out of their limited opportunities.
If the Titans were to draft Alabama’s Henry Ruggs, he would find his way into the lineup quickly, and become an immediate asset to the team. A player with Ruggs’ pure talent could slide into the WR2 role quickly.
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Humphries should be penciled in as the starting slot receiver, same with Smith at tight end and Brown as the teams undisputed WR1. There is already talent among that position group, for sure, but Ruggs has the potential to be good enough to take that group to another level.
Along with Brown, the two young receivers could form one of the best one-two receiver combos in the NFL for years to come.
Ruggs never lit up box scores during his time at Alabama, but showed massive big-play potential with the combine numbers to back it up. Running a 40-yard dash with 4.27 speed, Ruggs is sure to have caught the eye of more than a few teams.
It’s true that 40-yard speed can be an overrated stat when it comes to the combine, but when speed is used in the right way, it can become deadly even at the NFL level. Ruggs has that level of rare high-end speed, and the Titans have an offense that would give Ruggs a chance to flourish with that speed.
In those instances when the Titans did throw the ball, it was oftentimes out of play-action, and why wouldn’t it be? With a running back in the backfield that gets the ball as much as Derrick Henry (usually to dominant results), defenses would tend to stack the box against the Titans in preparation to defend the run, typically leaving seven or eight defenders committed to run defense with minimal help to stop the pass.
The Titans were able to take advantage of the mismatch plenty with their current receiving talent, but Ruggs would be able to obliterate man coverage with minimal safety help with his speed. Especially with defenses worried more about the up-and-coming star of AJ Brown than Ruggs.
He might not be the high-volume guy we typically associate the game’s top receivers with, but Ruggs would not need to be that for the Titans. He might stay around the 40-reception mark in the NFL that he made his name with at the college level, but the type of receiver Ruggs is would give the Titans a lethal home-run hit with potential to score on every target.
Ruggs’ skill as a receiver in the Titans offense feels like a match handcrafted by the football gods. He would be the perfect fit for Arthur Smith’s offensive style, the perfect compliment for AJ Brown, and the perfect draft addition to give Tennessee the elite receiving group they have always lacked.