Tee Higgins Makes Ball-Tracking Look Easy (2020 NFL Draft)
Tee Higgins, Clemson
Weight: 216 pounds
40-yard dash: 4.54 seconds (Pro Day)
Vertical Jump: 31.0 inches
Broad Jump: 123.0 inches
3-Cone Drill: N/A
Similar to many players in this draft class, many were disappointed by Higgins’ 40-yard dash numbers he posted at his Combine, as well as his pedestrian 31-inch vertical. Prior to those tests, Higgins was considered a receiver who’d stretch the field and offer top-end contested catch ability. Should these measurements really change that?
His “disappointing” measurables didn’t stop him from accumulating 59 receptions in each of the last two seasons at Clemson, while hauling in 936 yards in 2018 and then 1,167 yards in 2019. Sure, he had Trevor Lawrence throwing him the ball, but 25 touchdowns in those two seasons highlights just how much Lawrence trusted him when it mattered most.
Here’s my detailed scouting report on Tee Higgins (ratings out of five stars):
He’s extremely long, has the length you want out of a receiver that’s trusted in contested catch situations. He’s perimeter only, as he’s not big enough to absorb big hits over the middle of the field and he doesn’t have the burst needed to create separation to provide his quarterback with a quick outlet. While he can certainly develop into a more well-rounded player, he’ll be drafted as someone who’s the Y-receiver as someone who’s trusted to stretch the field, as well be a force to be reckoned with in the red zone. His size is most definitely a plus to his game, though his versatility is very limited.
Route Running/Ability to Separate
He’s someone who takes long strides, which typically doesn’t allow a receiver to be a great route-runner. He’s not a natural separator. When he has separation underneath, it’s typically due to the cornerback respecting his top-end speed and playing off-coverage. Still believe he can grow as a route-runner, needs to sink hips a bit more in his breaks, but he understands how to leverage. He does vary his speeds well when he goes untouched by the defender, though that’s not likely going to happen much at the next level.
RATING: ⭐⭐ 1/2
His 40-time confirmed what I saw on film. He’s not overly quick but does have ramped-up speed. The fact that he doesn’t have burst off the line of scrimmage will be limiting to his overall upside. His play speed down the field is solid, as he varies his speed as necessary, whether it be to blow by the defender or scale his speed back to adjust for a ball.
While CeeDee Lamb likely has the best hands in the draft, Higgins isn’t far behind. He snags the ball out of the air with his hands, which are ready at a moment’s notice. There were plenty of times where Trevor Lawrence would let the ball go before the break in Higgins’ route and he’d turn around and have to lay out to snag the ball on the sideline. He may not have the greatest vertical, but you’ll see him jump and snag the ball over a defender’s shoulder.
RATING: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 1/2
There are not many players I’d trust more to track a deep ball than Higgins. He does it so effortlessly, makes it look easy. He also does a great job subtly using his arms to create separation without getting flagged. He also does a good job at positioning his body where the defender has little chance to make a play on the ball.
After the Catch
He’s not going to be someone who creates after the catch. The reasons he’s so good in one-on-one situations is the same reasons he won’t be good after the catch. He’s long-limbed, lanky, and not particularly fast. He’s an easy player for a defender to get his hands on because of all those things.
Projected Draft Spot
After he failed to do anything to stand out at the Combine or Pro Day, Higgins is likely to fall into the second-round of the draft. It’s tough to see him falling further than that, though we did see D.K. Metcalf fall until the end of the second-round last year, and he was a better prospect. The top teams that should be interested in Higgins include the Packers, 49ers, Broncos, and Bears.
Higgins reminds me of someone like Kenny Golladay. They may not be phenomenal separators but when the ball gets in their range, they have magnets for hands. If you wanted to go back in time a little bit, Kenny Britt would be a solid comparison, too. These are guys that can get open down the field despite not having lightning speed and they track the ball very well. There are glimpses of what could be a top-tier receiver, and if Higgins works on the nuances of his route-running, he should have a long, productive career.
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