The NFL Combine has officially come to a close as many prospects saw their stock rise or fall.There have been rumblings that the tight end class this year is “weak,” a relative term that does hold true: Arkansas’ Hunter Henry is the clear-cut top prospect who could go as early as the first round.
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However, the Rams are in need of one so let’s take a look at Western Kentucky’s Tyler Higbee, a massive target in the passing game at 6’6,” 249 pounds and offers legitimate upside.The former two star recruit started out as a wide receiver at WKU, but despite playing in 11 games as a true freshman, he only caught two passes for 92 yards and a touchdown. He redshirted in 2012 and converted to tight end in 2013 where he caught 13 passes for 169 yards and a touchdown; his stat line improved very little the following year (save for touchdowns) as he caught 15 passes for 231 yards and four touchdowns.
Higbee had a breakout 2015, catching 38 passes for 563 yards and eight touchdowns in only nine games as he missed the other five due to a knee injury. To put those numbers into comparison, he trailed only Henry in receptions and yards amongst the three finalists for the John Mackey Award but caught more touchdowns than all three.
While Higbee did play in a wide-open offense with a solid quarterback, Higbee is a serious pass-catching threat with his height and length (33″ arms). He plays like a former receiver with smooth route running and quickness in and out of breaks. After the catch is where Higbee has an impact as he is a tremendous open-field runner with great straight-line speed; it often takes multiple tackles to bring him down.
Higbee also couples his speed with savviness to work off the LOS and into the second level as a physical, aggressive blocker, one of the top blockers in this years’ tight end class. With 10 1/4″ hands, Higbee is a consistent pass-catcher (only one drop in 2015) who knows to use his body to haul passes in when he’s in traffic.
Despite Higbee’s strength, his frame does have room to grow and scouts will also have questions regarding the knee injury that held him out of five games and the fact he played sparingly in four years. Regardless, I see Higbee in the Kevin Boss mold who should be available in the second round when the Rams are on the board twice. He is an immediate upgrade over Jared Cook, which isn’t saying much, who could provide an impact right away.