What does a simple Google search for Rashard Higgins tell us?
- He was extremely productive in college (238 catches, 3648 yards and 31 touchdowns).
- He was a Fred Biletnikoff Award finalist.
- He had a disappointing showing at the combine.
- His nickname is ‘Hollywood’.
- When asked for an NFL comparison, he believes he looks a little like Martavis Bryant in the way he comes out of coverage and runs his routes.
Every year, there is a group of middling receivers who enter the draft. They are the best players on their team and extremely productive, but don’t seem to have that something special driving them up to the top of the boards. Higgins is projected to be selected at the end of day two or early on day three, and the team who selects him will have seen something that makes them believe he can grow and produce at the next level. I want to discover what that something is.
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We will start with a look at Higgins on Draft Breakdown.
This game offers a great example of what he was for Colorado State. He saw the ball a lot (12 catches), won both in the short game and long game (193 yards), and hauled in two touchdowns. Obviously, this is a very eventful game for Higgins and he makes some great plays, but he did things like this in every game I watched. He has an amazing ability to track the ball and bring it in with ease. He doesn’t have blazing speed by any means, but he uses a mix of acceleration and patience well, allowing him to get open often. When he has the ball, he’s smart and shifty.
I like stylistic comparisons for players if I see something similar to someone currently in the NFL. To me, Higgins actually shares many traits and similarities with Steelers’ receivers Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant. If Pittsburgh aren’t entirely content with Markus Wheaton and Sammie Coates, I think he’d be a perfect fit and would love for him to end up there. It’s very important to note that these stylistic comparisons to star/well-known players are to give an idea of how another Higgins moves/looks/presents himself on the field. He moves his body like Brown when running routes, has an upright get-off/stance and runs with the ball like Bryant, and there were also times he reminded me of Tyler Lockett, both when route-running and tracking the ball in the air. None of these mean he is near the talent level of these players, only that he does certain things in similar ways.
Our Austan Kas compared Higgins to Paul Richardson in his 20/20 article earlier in the year. Unfortunately, we haven’t really been able to see how Richardson’s career would have progressed if he was fully healthy, but they might be similar prospects coming out. I prefer Higgins to Richardson by quite a margin, as he has a way of coming down with the ball in contested situations with his great hands and laser focus. Richardson has big-play capability, but I saw him get knocked around a lot and he wasn’t able to win in a fight. But even with my doubts on Richardson, he was selected in the second round of the 2014 Draft – partly due to an explosive performance at the combine, something Higgins wasn’t able to replicate.
Higgins’ Mock Draftable chart tells the tale of that terrible combine showing.
How much of this is concerning? A lot, unfortunately.
The only real positive is the hand size (75th percentile) – allowing him to pluck the ball out of the air effortlessly. He excels in this area, and it does show when you watch him. However, the jumping and speed tests let him down majorly. For one, this will see his stock drop on draft day, but more importantly it calls into question his ability to compete at the next level. He bettered his 40 time slightly at his pro day (4.59 and 4.60), but speed still won’t be where he wins. The chart is cause for concern, but let’s take a further look at his athletic measurables and some more metrics, brought to you by PlayerProfiler.com:
Once again, the athleticism is horrific. His workout metrics are are extremely bad, but they don’t add up with his on-field production and performance. His college dominator and breakout age percentiles both speak to how well he played in college, but was that purely because he was the most talented player on the field? If there is one positive to take from this, it’s that he’s very young and may have time to grow his body and strength when he gets into the professional game. Unfortunately though, his metrics don’t paint a very rosy picture of his future.
In February, Jeff Haverlack described Higgins as one of his favorite sleepers in this class. I can see why. Higgins also showed up very well in Matt Harmon’s Reception Perception, a comprehensive look at how wide receivers are utilized and where they enjoy success. He was top five in the class in success rate versus man, zone and double coverage.
If a player looks good on tape, and they check the athletic boxes, don’t overthink it.
If they show out on film, but don’t have the skills in shorts, we must determine if they are strong enough in the areas they need to be in order to play their game. For example, if a speedster on film blazes their 40 but doesn’t do well on the bench press, it won’t concern me too much. However, if someone known to win with their speed doesn’t actually show that speed, I’d be worried.
If someone doesn’t look refined or productive on tape but blows up the combine, I’ll be cautious but intrigued. Having skills that ‘can’t be taught’ is good as long as the player can learn to use them in the right way. Coaching, teammates and situations have a huge influence on these players moving forward. Patience is also often required.
When a prospect can’t put together good-looking tape or impress with their measurables, I’m probably going to move on.
Higgins won with route-running and his footballing ability in college. He didn’t rely on speed, height or any one particular physical trait to win. The fact that he didn’t test well doesn’t particularly surprise me, but it can’t be ignored and it means I can’t fall in love with him. However, at his current projected ADP (25 in our latest rookie data), I like the value. Obviously, his draft position and destination will have a massive impact on where he goes in your rookie draft, but he’s not highly coveted right now and a lot of people will be avoiding him due to the athleticism concerns. Austan Kas took him at 2.04 in our post combine rookie mock. However, in that same mock, Jacob Feldman compared him to Brian Robiskie – a polished receiver who had production at the college level, but who wasn’t able to improve and grow enough to make it in the NFL.
Higgins will be another great test for the eyes versus athletic measurables. Can he be effective simply with route running, smart play and a ‘feel for the game’? Or will he fail to make an impact, being overshadowed by opponents stronger, faster and more physically capable than he is? I think he has the big-play ability to be someone who will increase in value during and after his rookie year, and right now I’m in the pro-Higgins camp.
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