NFL Draft

2019 NFL Draft Player Profiles: Michigan RB Karan Higdon

From now until the 2019 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to showcase as many prospects as possible and examine both their strengths and weaknesses. Most of these profiles will feature individuals that the Pittsburgh Steelers are likely to have an interest in, while a few others will be top-ranked players. If there is a player you would like us to analyze, let us know in the comments below.

#22 Karan Higdon/RB/5’9 206 lbs

The Good:

  • Gets skinny through the hole
  • Has a feel for cutback lanes
  • Shows patience as a cutback runner
  • Will wait for blocks to develop when running behind a lead blocker
  • Shows ability to power through arm tackles
  • Quick burst to the line of scrimmage
  • Possesses long speed
  • Competitive runner, runs as if he’s 240 lbs
  • Not scared of contact
  • Good feel as a runner outside the tackles

The Bad:

  • Undersized, will have concerns if his body can handle NFL workload
  • Vision needs improvement, average decision making
  • Seems stiff laterally
  • Struggles to create yardage after contact, average contact balance
  • Struggles in short yardage situations
  • Very little reps as a receiver
  • Willing blocker but blocking technique needs major work

Bio:

  • 2018: 224 carries for 1178 yards, 10 TDs, 5.3 yards per carry
  • Career: 471 carries for 2616 yards, 27 TDs, 5.6 yards per carry
  • Career: 16 receptions for 177 yards
  • Voted team captain in 2018
  • Named 2017 Michigan Offensive MVP
  • First team All-Big-Ten selection in 2018
  • Invited to 2019 Senior Bowl
  • 19 starts during NCAA career

Tape Breakdown:

Let’s start with the obvious elephant in the room. Michigan running back Karan Higdon is under sized. Standing at 5’9 and 206 pounds, there are some serious doubts over his durability to withstand an NFL workload. Due to that, his ceiling is likely limited to just being a change of pace back or part of a running back rotation. Now that is not necessarily a bad thing, true workhorse backs are hard to find and majority of teams split the cost and production among a duo or trio of running backs. Higdon still has a variety of assets that make him an intriguing running back at the next level.

Higdon’s speed has long been known to be his biggest strength and it was further confirmed with his 4.41 40-yard dash time at the NFL Combine. Once the Michigan running back hits the sideline, he is as good as gone. Good luck trying to keep up with Higdon in a foot race as he has exceptional acceleration and can hit second gear quickly. He is what we call a home run threat.

While Higdon’s speed is his true calling card, he will not be able to simply run away from talented defenders at the next level unless he puts himself in a position to do so. Fortunately for him and the team that selects him, he seems more than capable at doing that in certain scenarios. The Michigan running back shows a great feel for setting u his blocks and cutting back to find a running lane. Here he is running behind two pulling lead blockers, getting a feel for the flow of the defense before cutting back and successfully gaining five yards. Besides just running to the sideline and turning up field, Higdon is also able to keep defenses honest by making them consider his speed before cutting back inside.

Running behind a lead blocker seems to be the best role for Higdon and he seems like an easy translate to a pro-style offense. Here he is following his fullback, allowing him to set up the block before turning upfield for a big gain. While he breaks two arm tackles on the way, it should be a cautionary tale that contact balance is not one of Higdon’s strengths. He is not a running back who is going to be able to pinball off tackles to create yards after contact consistently, he more fits in as quick footed back who can dart through arm tackles with his speed.

Some of the issues surrounding Higdon’s game have to do with his size and how he handles it. He is a tough, competitive runner and no one is going to take that away from him. What is concerning though is at times he runs as if he is a 240 lb running back, just barreling into whatever is in front of him which leaves valuable yardage on the field. Watch on the play above, Higdon barrels into his linemen ahead of him despite a gigantic hole opening up to his left. Whether that is a critique of his vision, footwork to move laterally or both, it is a concerning aspect of his game that needs to be considered.

A great run right? Higdon scampers to the sideline and is able to gain significant yardage to move the chains. While the product is a beneficial one, the means to that production deserve a closer glance. Watch as Higdon hits the sideline and attempts to cut back inside. His movement laterally is very stiff and clunky, not the natural smooth agility one would see when watching Alvin Kamara or even the bigger Le’Veon Bell. While no one will doubt his speed and quickness, his elusiveness and agility do have a fair share of concerns. Higdon’s feet and hips do not line up in one fluid motion when making cuts in the open field. To add to that, he did not participate in the 3-cone drill at the NFL Combine so his tape is the only definite answer at the moment on his agility.

Higdon may project best as part of a running back rotation where he can be substituted in and use his speed to be a change of pace back. Being a third down back also seems to be out of contention at the moment as Higdon has not shown much as a pass catcher and while he is a willing blocker, his ability to anchor is going to be called into question due to his size. The best position for Higdon to succeed would be on a team that features lots of pulling linemen which will play to Higdon’s strengths.

Projection: Early Day Three

Games Watched: vs Notre Dame, vs Western Michigan, vs Rutgers,

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Daylon Mack Jaylon Ferguson Brian Burns Terrill Hanks Deebo Samuel
Nasir Adderley David Long Oshane Ximines Deshaun Davis Cameron Smith
Parris Campbell Emanuel Hall Tony Pollard N’Keal Harry Deandre Baker
Juan Thornhill Foster Moreau Julian Love Drue Tranquill A.J. Brown
Isaiah Buggs L.J. Scott Taylor Rapp Dre’Mont Jones Tre Lamar
Noah Fant Greedy Williams Marquise Brown Gerald Willis III Terry Godwin
Tyre Brady T.J. Edwards Rock Ya-Sin Miles Sanders Jaquan Johnson
Tommy Sweeney Hakeem Butler Darius Slayton Byron Murphy Hamp Cheevers
Darnell Savage Jr. Ryan Davis Jordan Brailford Amani Hooker Dalton Risner
Ulysees Gilbert III David Montgomery Justin Hollins Deionte Thompson Nick Bosa
J.J. Arcega-Whiteside David Sills V Iman Marshall Elijah Holyfield Chauney Gardner-Johnson
Lonnie Johnson Riley Ridley Anthony Johnson Kingsley Keke Penny Hart
Kelvin Harmon Stanley Morgan Jr. Ed Oliver Justin Layne Mike Bell
Sione Takitaki Zach Allen Devin Singletary Josh Jacobs Bryce Love
Diontae Johnson Damarkus Lodge Johnnie Dixon Kelvin Harmon Blake Cashman
D.K. Metcalf James Williams Justice Hill Sean Bunting
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