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Combine WRs Present Conundrum for Cardinals

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NCAA Football: Louisiana State at Alabama Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

Pictured above: Alabama WR Henry Ruggs III

If the Cardinals manage free agency well enough to be comfortable taking a WR at #8, then, the pressing question is—-how could they possibly pass on Oklahoma WR CeeDee Lamb?

First of all the symbolic symmetry of Kliff Kingsbury and the Cardinals taking back to back Sooners in Kyler Murray (#1 jersey) in Year One and CeeDee Lamb (#2 jersey) in Year 2 seems astrological in nature.

Kyler has made it clear that Lamb is his top choice in the draft and Lamb has made it clear that it would be “an honor” to be reunited with Kyler. “That’s my boy,” CeeDee says of Kyler.

This past season we saw how Kyler loved to throw to his left versus one-on-one matchups. The Cardinals’ “X” WR to the left was, in most cases, Damiere Byrd. Byrd’s stats: 32/359/11.2/58yd.long/1 TD.

Where Damiere Byrd wins is with foot quickness and 4.3 speed while basically running a 5 route tree: out, back shoulder, go, fade, post—-of which he was most successful on the fade pass.

What we didn’t see from Byrd was production on crossing routes. In fact, when Kingsbury wanted deep crosses from the left WR, he turned to Andy Isabella.

Where CeeDee Lamb wins is with quick twitch footwork, uncanny balance, Venus flytrap hands and a feel for how to gain a step of separation. What Lamb lacks in terms of pure speed (4.5), he makes up for in what I would describe as a series of “cat and mouse” deke moves—-and in Kyler Murray he has a QB who knows exactly how to throw the ball away from the defender into the short windows that Lamb typically creates.

For example, one of the half-time adjustments that Lamb and Murray made in the 2018 national semi-final game versus Alabama was to throw perfectly timed back shoulder throws to Lamb at designated yard marks on the left sideline. This was an effort to get the Bama CB to cheat up on Lamb because Lamb hadn’t been able to beat the CB deep. It worked—-and the cat and mouse game was in full effect during the Sooners furious second half comeback—-as Lamb would wind up catching 8 passes for 108 yards and 1 TD.

CeeDee Lamb made a living in college from getting in CBs’ heads. Not only in making them paranoid about taking the mouse bait, but in tackling Lamb once he caught the ball. In college, Lamb was a first-rate Houdini with the ball in his hands.

In the NFL it obviously isn’t going to be nearly as easy. Although, being in sync with an accurate QB like Kyler Murray would be be an ideal scenario for Lamb.

The question is, however, is Lamb an ideal WR for what the Cardinals currently need?

The major problem with last year’s passing offense was failing to get consistent separation from the WRs—-which is why Steve Keim said this week that the criteria he’s looking for in a WR is to add “someone who can take the top off the defense—-or be physical.”

Keim’s own description does not seem to partly characterize CeeDee Lamb’s skills, which are more crafty than speed and/or physicality related. The same could be said about Jerry Jeudy. The truth is that Notre Dame’s WR/TE Chase Claypool at 6-5, 235 (4.42) is faster than both—-and is the second WR in the history of the Combine to run a 4.5 40 at 6’4”+ and 235. The 1st? Calvin Johnson. But, obviously, Claypool is not the craftsman that Lamb and Jeudy are. And obviously Claypool is no Calvin Johnson. But, he is a very intriguing prospect.

The WRs in this draft who are best suited to ‘take the top off the defense” are Alabama’s Henry Ruggs (6-1, 4.27) and Baylor’s Denzel Mims (6-3, 207, 4.38).

And when one studies the game films, there are a myriad of reasons to suggest that Henry Ruggs is just what the Cardinals’ offense needs. First off, with Ruggs’ speed and explosion (exceptional 42” vertical jump at 5-11, 188), defenses will have to tilt the FS toward him. With Ruggs, he not only wins on the perimeter, he is especially dynamic from the slot. Of his 98 receptions at Alabama, 24 went for TDs—-

Ruggs is the epitome of the home run threat.

Plus, Ruggs has bigger hands (10 1/8) than DeeDee Lamb and Jerry Jeudy—-which is one of the main reasons why he only dropped one pass last season.

Furthermore, Ruggs is made to order for the K-Raid because he is a home run threat on jet sweeps and WR screens. Suggs scored 3 TDs on such plays last season, one of which was a 75 yard bolt of lightning to the house on a sweep.

As for Denzel Mims, the Cardinals may already have a similar player in Hakeem Butler. And Mims is not nearly as versatile as Ruggs.

The fact that Ruggs is so explosive from the slot, makes him even more in vogue with NFL OCs, because of what is now being called the “Deebo Samuel” effect—-as in slot WRs who become RBs once they catch the ball. With as many teams running RPOs these days, to have a threat like Samuels running behind the linebackers on RPOs put defenses in a major bind.

What Kyler Murray needs, more than anything else, is a go-to WR on RPOs.

Ruggs is made to order for that.

Some of the others in this draft pool who could also fill that role are Justin Jefferson (LSU), Laviska Shenault (Colorado), Jalen Reagor (TCU), Michael Pittman (USC), Tyler Johnson (Minnesota), Donovan Peoples-Jones (Michigan) and Kyler Murray’s cousin—-who actually looks and play a little like Deebo Samuel—-Devin Duvernay (Texas).

Justin Jefferson, imo, could wind up being the most productive WR in this draft class. The dude is 7/11, always open, and he glides with ease into daylight.

It wouldn’t be a surprise if Kliff Kingsbury had Devin Duvernay in mind when he said that there should still be excellent WR prospects in the 4th round. However, after running a blistering 4.39 last night, Duvernay is now a Day 2 lock and if the Cardinals do not draft a WR at #8 or at #40, then they may be hoping to select Devin Duvernay at #72. Duvernay is dynamic from the slot.

Do yourself a favor and read this short article (with play videos) about Henry Ruggs. The article, imo, is essential proof as to why Henry Ruggs fits Kliff Kingsbury’s offense the best, at this particular time.

https://ftw.usatoday.com/2020/02/nfl-combine-henry-ruggs-40-yard-dash-highlights-alabama

Did you notice what number Ruggs wears?

Hmmm...

Same number as Larry—-and yet same home run ability as Roy Green.

Surrounding Kyler Murray with home run threats...look out NFC West!