Fantasy News & Analysis

Fantasy Football: With Tyrell Williams headed to IR, Henry Ruggs III becomes Raiders' key WR to target

The NFL season is just about here, and an unfortunate side effect is already in full swing: injuries. ESPN’s Field Yates reported Tuesday that Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Tyrell Williams (torn labrum) has been placed on injured reserve. We already knew Williams would be at less than 100%, but this transaction ends his season.

The Raiders are expected to deploy the least-experienced wide receiver room in the league between Henry Ruggs III, Bryan Edwards and Hunter Renfrow

Ruggs is the favorite to lead the way after the Raiders used the No. 12 overall pick to acquire his services. The former Alabama wideout possesses blistering speed that helped him average a robust 17.5 yards per reception during his career. Somehow, Ruggs looks even faster on the field than his 4.27-second 40-yard dash might indicate.

Ruggs is my rookie WR1 for both his underrated potential target share and game-breaking ability. Derek Carr’s pecking order is hardly defined. No wide receiver had a higher passer rating when targeted in college football than Ruggs. Concerns over his fit with captain checkdown under center are overrated; Ruggs has the ability to win at all three levels of the field.

Ruggs is far too cheap at his WR48 average draft position, considering his potential to function as his offense’s featured pass-game target and his demonstrated baller ability.

Edwards was one of the Raiders’ third-round picks and will start in place of Williams on the outside. The South Carolina product largely fell in the draft due to injury concerns that are seemingly no longer an issue. Edwards’ size (6-foot-3 and 212 pounds) is missing among the team’s remaining wideouts, meaning we could potentially see an enhanced red-zone role for the 21-year-old rookie.

Coach Jon Gruden has been complimenting Edwards all camp, noting that he’s “a quick learner and he’s a businessman, too” because he wants to be “a great receiver. He’s really focused on that.” Beat writer reports have been consistently laudatory of the rookie.

PFF’s Kevin Cole found that Edwards’ closest statistical comparison is Davante Adams. Cole noted, “Edwards’ comps include many strong college producers, some of whom have been successful. Career market shares in yards and touchdowns with percentages in 20s are fairly rare. The fact that the ceiling and mean averages for Edwards’ comp top 0.2 WAR in most years is very impressive for a third-round pick.”

Renfrow has a decent shot at finishing among the offense’s top-three targets. His 71 targets trailed only Darren Waller, and that was despite Renfrow playing just 13 games in 2019. Even more impressive was the efficiency in which he picked up yards:

Yes, this passing game largely flowed through Waller in 2019. Also yes, coach Jon Gruden hasn’t always been a fantasy football tight end whisperer. Gruden’s No. 1 pass-game option has averaged 133 targets during his time as head coach. Triple-digit targets were dished out to the likes of Joey Galloway (152, 143), Keyshawn Johnson (142), Keenan McCardell (139, 101), Antonio Bryant (138) and Michael Clayton (122) between 2002-2008 during Gruden’s time with the Buccaneers, not to mention some of the success Gruden had with Tim Brown and Jerry Rice during his first stint with the Raiders.

Ruggs remains the key receiver to target in fantasy land. He has the type of speed and raw receiver ability to function as more of a true high-volume, boom-or-boom receiver than a field-stretching talent who fails to get consistent opportunities. The path is now also open for Edwards to ball out to some extent, although the No. 2 WR in Las Vegas could very well be the No. 3 or No. 4 pass-game option, considering the team’s weapons at tight end and running back.

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