NFL Draft 2020

Raiders' Mark Davis believes dad, Al, would love rookie Henry Ruggs

Raiders' Mark Davis believes dad, Al, would love rookie Henry Ruggs

With the No. 12 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, the Raiders went back in time, and owner Mark Davis believes that philosophy would have made his father, Al, proud.

The late Al Davis, who was a Raiders owner and general manager from 1966 through 2011, loved speed. He coveted it as a way to pressure defenses, sometimes even a bit too much. So with the top pick in the draft this year, Mark took one out of his father's book and added Alabama receiver Henry Ruggs. 

“Henry Ruggs was the player I wanted for the last six months,” Davis recently told The Athletic's Vic Tafur. “My dad was always trying to replace Cliff [Branch] with so many different types of guys. … Speed, speed, speed and we really got away from that the last five, six, seven years.

"We really didn’t have anybody that could run. Nobody could run."

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That changed in a hurry with the addition of Ruggs. The former Crimson Tide star ran a blazing 4.27 40-yard dash at the NFL Pro Scouting Combine. That speed translated to big numbers in college, too. 

Ruggs combined for 83 receptions, 1,487 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns between his sophomore and junior seasons. He's a freak athlete, and Davis has high expectations for him.

“I watched Henry Ruggs and his speed and quickness and his strength were pretty impressive," Davis said. "And then if you see his basketball highlights, my God. He made some nice tackles on interceptions and he’ll block too. He is a complete player. I was just so thrilled that we drafted him.

"Maybe that’s the piece that we haven’t had that’s Raiders football. You throw it deep the first play and the safety is worried the whole game.”

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The Raiders' offensive is full of returning players. Quarterback Derek Carr will lead the way for his seventh season, running back Josh Jacobs looks like a star and tight end Darren Waller had a breakout season. As a rookie, though, Ruggs should be well-positioned to make a big impact from Day 1.

And Al Davis would be proud.

49ers rookie Brandon Aiyuk's reliable hands are shown with this stat

49ers rookie Brandon Aiyuk's reliable hands are shown with this stat

High expectations were placed on Brandon Aiyuk immediately after the 49ers traded up and selected the former Arizona State receiver with the No. 25 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Those hopes among The Faithful only have grown with Deebo Samuel and Richie James going down with injuries this offseason. 

Samuel and James should be ready to go for the season if everything goes right in their recovery. It's never that easy, though. 

There of course are concerns with any rookie's learning curve coming into the NFL. Those only have been heightened with this odd offseason. And Kyle Shanahan notoriously has one of the most complex playbooks in football. But there's good news when it comes to Aiyuk. 

Aiyuk has some of the surest hands in the entire rookie draft class. His 5.5 percent drop rate was the third-best among six first-round receivers. Only Henry Ruggs and CeeDee Lamb, both drafted ahead of Aiyuk, performed better in the category. 

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As a senior, Aiyuk hauled in 65 receptions for 1,192 yards and eight touchdowns in 12 games. He did this all while having a freshman quarterback, Jayden Daniels, throwing him passes last year. And he has shown off his sure hands this offseason, too. 

Aiyuk made a great first impression on quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. The rookie joined his QB and others in workouts at San Jose State last month, and he stood out to Garoppolo for more than his talent. 

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“You can tell when you’re calling a play and you look into a guy’s eye and know if he’s taking it in or if it’s like, ‘What the hell is this guy saying?' ” Garoppolo told The Athletic's Matt Barrows. “And he was engaged, he was locked in. And he was a fun guy to be around, too.”

The 49ers are scheduled to start training camp July 25, and all eyes will be on Aiyuk. He has a great chance to carve out an important role with Samuel shelved, and he only will further solidify that by snagging every ball Garoppolo throws his way.

49ers' Fred Warner picked up 'ball is everything' from Kwon Alexander

49ers' Fred Warner picked up 'ball is everything' from Kwon Alexander

The defense has as much right to ownership of the football as the offense.

That’s the message linebacker Kwon Alexander brought to the 49ers’ defense last season. And it’s the reason linebacker Fred Warner is rarely seen without a football in his hands any time he is around team headquarters in Santa Clara.

“I give a lot of credit to Kwon,” Warner said last week during the 49ers State of the Franchise virtual event about the common sight of him carrying a football around.

“He’s the one who started that. Kwon brought this mindset to the entire defense, the entire team, from the moment he got on the squad. Carrying around a football is just reminding you that the ball is everything.”

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

The 49ers ranked 10th in the NFL last season with a plus-four turnover margin. The 49ers were third in the league with 15 takeaways on fumbles.

Nickelback K’Waun Williams led the team with four forced fumbles, while defensive lineman DeForest Buckner, whom the club traded to the Indianapolis Colts this offseason, had four fumble recoveries.

“When you’re out on the field, I’m honestly trying to attack the ball,” said Warner, who forced three fumbles last season. “And I think that’s the mindset of everybody on our defense. And I think you saw that, game-in and game-out where we were creating takeaways for the team.”

[RELATED: 49ers' goal on D is simple, but will be tough to attain]

The 49ers’ virtual offseason program recently concluded. The team has not been on the field together since its Super Bowl LIV loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, but San Francisco believes the defense can be even better in 2020 because of the continuity from one season to the next.

Buckner is the only full-time starter from last season who does not return on defense. The 49ers replaced Buckner with South Carolina defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw, the No. 14 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.