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Alabama WRs On The Verge Of History

By Dave Holcomb
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Alabama is poised to become the first school since Florida in 1997 to have two wide receivers be taken among the first three at the position in a single NFL Draft.

Seeing two players at the same position group from an identical school selected early in the NFL draft isn’t exactly uncommon, but it’s still a terrific milestone.

Although one played inside and the other lined up outside, two of the first four linebackers taken in last year’s draft were from Michigan (Devin Bush and Rashan Gary). In 2018, the first two offensive linemen selected came from Notre Dame (guard Quenton Nelson and offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey).

But in 2020, two Alabama wide receivers are expected to be among the first three wideouts drafted this spring. That’s something that hasn’t happened in 23 years.

Regardless of the expert or website, Crimson Tide receivers Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III are ranked as two of the best three wideouts in the 2020 class. The other consensus top choice at the position is Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb, who most project to go first among the wide receivers.

Either way, Jeudy and Ruggs are considered first-round picks, and Alabama is poised to become the first school since Florida in 1997 to have two wide receivers be taken among the first three at the position in a single NFL Draft.

The biggest question remaining is which one will go first. Jeudy or Ruggs?

Among the leading draft experts, Jeudy has a slight edge over Ruggs and could even go ahead of Lamb as the top wideout. Jeudy showcased dynamic skills at Alabama, displaying the ability to create big plays and produce solid route-running. He led the Crimson Tide with 77 catches and posted 1,163 yards with 10 touchdowns.

In the SEC, Jeudy was one of just five wide receivers with at least 10 touchdowns, and he was one of only four SEC wideouts with more than 1,000 receiving yards last season. Only 17 wide receivers had both in the entire country during 2019.

Ruggs posted impressive numbers in his own right, recording 40 receptions for 746 yards and seven touchdowns. He averaged 18.7 yards per catch, which was third-best in the SEC. While Jeudy was eighth in the conference with a 15.1 yards per catch average, that mark was only fourth-best at Alabama last year. Ruggs led the Crimson Tide in yards per reception.

Plus, when it comes to the NFL combine, Ruggs outperformed his teammate. Ruggs ran the 40-yard dash in 4.27 seconds, which was the fastest time among all players at the combine let alone at wide receiver. Ruggs also bested Jeudy in the vertical jump and broad jump by a significant margin, which could boost his draft stock ahead of his teammate’s.

Jeudy just barely made the top 10 among wide receivers in the 40-yard dash with a 4.45-second time. Meanwhile, Ruggs was at least one-tenth of a second faster than every other wide receiver but one (Quez Watkins).

But a factor that may tip things back in Jeudy’s favorite is how the two did without Tua Tagovailoa at the end of the season. Jeudy averaged fewer receptions per game in four contests without Tagovailoa, but all of his other numbers increased.

Jeudy posted 399 receiving yards, three touchdowns and nearly a 20.0 yards per catch average without “Tua.” Ruggs saw dips in his numbers, registering 173 receiving yards, two touchdowns and 14.4 yards per reception without Tagovailoa.

Each of their statistics with “Tua” last season went as followed:

- Jeudy - 57 receptions, 764 yards, seven touchdowns, 13.0 yards per catch

- Ruggs - 28 receptions, 573 yards, five touchdowns, 20.5 yards per catch.

It’s important to note that Ruggs missed one of the games Tagovailoa also sat out because of injury, so of course he had fewer yards than Jeudy without the star quarterback. However, his significant drop in yards per reception and Jeudy’s increase in that area with the different signal callers is hard to explain.

What it does indicate for Jeudy, though, is he is certainly not dependent upon a star quarterback. That may be important for teams in the top 10 of the draft because most of them are trying to develop a signal caller. Ruggs, however, still needs to prove at the next level that he doesn’t need a quarterback with a great arm in order to be a star.

We’re splitting hairs at this point. Not that teams don’t do that during the draft process because they certainly do, but landing either Alabama wide receiver will be a tremendous win on draft night, as these Crimson Tide wideouts make history as the first wide receivers from the same school taken among the first three at the position since Florida’s Ike Hilliard and Reidel Anthony in 1997.