One word comes to mind when thinking of Raiders rookie receiver Henry Ruggs: Speed.
Ruggs flew up draft boards after running a blazing 4.27 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine. For as fast as he is on the field, though, Raiders coach Jon Gruden is just as impressed with how fast his new rookie mentally processes football.
"We all know he’s fast physically. But when you find out he’s fast mentally, he can handle a lot of stuff," Gruden said to the Mercury News' Jerry McDonald. "We think we’ve got someone with a chance to be great."
Gruden said Ruggs certainly benefitted from learning under legendary coach Nick Saban at the University of Alabama. He also believes Ruggs has the "it" factor and truly loves football.
With pro days and traveling shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock were able to really concentrate on certain players. Ruggs was one of those such prospects.
"We even asked him to memorize formations and asked him to regurgitate it to us, and I don’t think we had a receiver or anybody at any position perform better in terms of football intelligence than Henry Ruggs," Gruden said.
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The Raiders selected Ruggs with the No. 12 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft to give quarterback Derek Carr the speed weapon he didn't have. Gruden and Mayock didn't stop there, though. They added another intriguing weapon in Lynn Bowden Jr. with their second pick in the third round.
Bowden wasn't able to perform at the combine but has been known to run the 40 in the 4.4-, 4.5-second range. Like Ruggs, Gruden was just as impressed with Bowden's football IQ as he was with his game-changing speed.
"He sees football. He understands football concepts," Gruden said of Bowden.
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This shouldn't come as a surprise. Bowden played receiver, quarterback, kick returner and punt returner at Kentucky. He will learn to play running back for the Raiders, but still should get touches all over the field.
The Raiders badly needed more speed on their offense. They added that in Ruggs and Bowden. They also believe they added two of the smartest football minds in the draft.