If you have been following me (or the website) on Twitter, you’ve probably seen the joke floating around that “John hates good football players” stemming from a few select analysts (Tyler Browing, I’m looking at you and Draught Time). It’s not necessarily true, but there are some consensus players that most Twitter Scouts agree are top players in the class that I don’t. Everyone has their difference in opinions, and there are some players that I question more with being able to translate their skillsets over to the NFL level.
There are a few of them too, and a lot of people strongly disagree with me. The one I’m willing to address is Clemson wide receiver Tee Higgins.
That being said, I wish to preface this work with a side note: Guys that I have questioned their ability to translate have so far aligned pretty well with the NFL’s way of thinking. I was one of the first people on Draft Twitter to not neccesarily buy the Minnesota receiver Tyler Johnson hype. It’s because I listen to NFL guys (like Jim Nagy, Daniel Jeremiah, Bucky Brooks, etc) and when they say something, I go back to the tape and I look for it.
Also: I don’t route for people to fail. I want to see their success in the NFL. But, it’s my job to tell you why they will or they won’t.
I like to start on a positive note. Let’s start with the things you should like about Tee Higgins.
The Positives to Tee Higgins and his game
Tee Higgins is a big body, and he’s long too. He’s 6’3-5/8″ and 216 pounds, and his wingspan is 81″ long. That’s the average of someone half-a-foot taller than he is. As a result, his catch radius is insane.
Trevor Lawrence vs South Carolina— 𝐂𝐅𝐁𝐋𝐢𝐯𝐞𝟐𝟒𝟕TM (@CFBLive247) April 2, 2020
In this clip Lawrence fires a dart to Tee Higgins for the touchdown..
It looks like Lawrence knew where he wanted to go the entire time… pic.twitter.com/sQkPrwo0mR
Higgins produced pretty well at Clemson too, catching 59 passes in each of the last two seasons, and scored a career total of 28 touchdowns. He was a good X-Receiver in college, someone who they could use to stretch the field and get downfield into deeper coverage.
Nothing screams "superstar" about Tee Higgins.— Cole Topham (@HamAnalysis) April 6, 2020
He ran an average 40-yard dash, his vertical was less than ideal, etc.
But Higgins caught a Clemson record-tying 27 touchdowns for a reason. He is superb at adjusting to the ball and easily boxes out corners with his long frame. pic.twitter.com/XmJvP156bl
His ability to adjust to the football and the body control that he shows is very good. He moves with such grace and poise and controlled a lot of the situations he found himself in. Because of these positive traits, a lot of NFL teams will find intrigue in the positives that he presents.
The Concerning things
Tee Higgins is a bigger-bodied receiver and bigger bodies don’t generally move as well. As a result, his route-running isn’t great at times, and he doesn’t often create much separation. It’s just science. The bigger you are, the harder it is to be quick and get in and out of breaks.
Because of the lack of separation that he creates, he needs to consistently catch the ball in those situations agaisnt NFL level defensive backs. This is not something that we saw very much of, as his tape is actually quite limited against stiffer competition.
Okudah is able to cover bigger WR's, like Tee Higgins, using his physicality and his length to deflect passes. pic.twitter.com/7PfPy7R3TP— NFL Film Review (@NFLFilmReview) April 5, 2020
Even against South Carolina, Higgins struggled to beat the coverage of a young sophomore cornerback, Israel Mukuamu, all game. Mukuamu is a name you all should watch, and after the 2020 Draft, you’ll see plenty of chatter about him from me.
Guys… you have got to make this catch.— John Vogel🏈 (@johndavogel) April 7, 2020
I know the ball is a little underthrown, but both hands are on it! pic.twitter.com/aUXnqRjEm5
Another interesting thing to point out is Higgins’s lack of an ability to get off of press coverage. Against Damon Arnette in the Playoff game, Higgins rather struggled to get off of physical press coverage. That game tape reminded us of how raw he is and all of the techniques that he still needs to refine, but he doesn’t handle physicality well at all, and he should do it better considering his size.
Here's another example, this time against Tee Higgins. Arnette punches him and then uses his length to squeeze him to the sideline. Trevor Lawrence glances in Arnette's direction, but would rather test Jeffrey Okudah of all people. Arnette had Ross and Higgins in a BOX. pic.twitter.com/q8dlHU2qyz— Texans Thoughts (@Texans_Thoughts) April 4, 2020
Lack of separation and struggles in contested catch situations… I think there is a rather worrisome concern there. We’ve seen a lot of these big receivers come out of schools going pro and never really are able to translate to the league. Kevin White from West Virginia is a great comparison to Higgins. Injuries derailed his career, but the similarity in the skill sets are absolutely undeniable.
A lot of people think Higgins is a potential star. I don’t see it. I think at best, he has a Sammy Watkins type of a career where he has carved himself a very nice niche in a high-powered offense. Higgins is a good complimentary piece, not a budding star.
You see, it’s not that I hate Tee Higgins, I just wouldn’t draft him as high as some people.