From now until the 2020 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.
#5 Tee Higgins/WR – Clemson – 6’4 216
- Long and lanky wide receiver with great size and strength
- Powerful throughout the route to fight off press
- Good straight line speed to threaten defensive backs that press
- Strong, strong hands. Can fight through PI to get to ball
- Outstanding body control and spatial awareness
- Hands catcher that doesn’t have many drop issues
- Good technique to beat press, very good with his hands
- Has lined up in the slot and both boundaries
- Lateral agility seems average to slightly above on film
- Route running is a bit undefined and rounded
- Wins with physicality and brutality at times, not technique
- Looks a tad sluggish a times off the line
- Did not run a sophisticated route tree at Clemson
- First-Team All-ACC 2019
- 27 career touchdowns, 18.1 yards per reception in Clemson career
- 30 starts over the past two seasons at Clemson
- Five start prospect out of Tennessee in the 2017 recruiting class
- Tied Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins for the most TDs in school history
Tee Higgins has been a household name around college football for the last two seasons. He’s had significant hype surrounding him since his freshman year as a five star recruit in the 2017 class. When that happens, star college players enter the NFL Draft with a significant amount of hype. That’s why it’s extra important to understand the difference between what’s real, and what is fabricated with star player like Tee Higgins. There is a lot to like about the Clemson receiver, but just like every other prospect, he’s not perfect.
Let’s start with the obvious; Tee Higgins is a big, physical mauler of a receiver with 34 inch arms. He’s a superb athlete with great body control who has great spatial awareness and his ability to snag off-target balls is fantastic. The former five star prospect is nearly everything you’d want when it comes to the actual act of catching the ball as well. His drops are few and far between over the past two seasons and he does a fantastic job of attacking the ball in the air and not allowing the defensive back to get a chance to make a play on the ball.
Higgins also has great linear speed and has the ability to run past lesser athletes in coverage. When paired with Clemson’s downfield passing attack, Higgins made for an explosive playmaker. He gained a significant cushion simply by reputation.
When cornerbacks do try to play Higgins in press man coverage he does a great job of using his hands to separate and gain position. His physicality through his route is nearly as good as his physicality at the catch point.
The concerning areas of Higgins’ lie also in this physicality. He is more of a bruiser at the position rather than a technician. While Clemson has a rather basic route tree (mostly hitches and go balls), Higgins does not show a lot of suddenness in and out of his intermediate routes. This leads to more contested catches and more chances for the defender to make a play on the ball. Even if he does catch the ball, Higgins consistently gives up separation with his route running.
He’s not the only Clemson receiver to have these issues coming out of college, so there is some question as to whether this is a coaching issue or a physical development issue. Either way, Higgins is not the worst at changing directions, he’s simply average.
There are also times that Higgins seems sluggish getting off of the line against press coverage. With good, but not elite speed, and questions about his change of direction skills, Higgins may be the odd man out of the first round in a loaded receiver class. He likely won’t be around when the Steelers pick at 18, but it would not be a surprise if he was selected in the first 10 picks of Round 2.
These flaws likely won’t prevent Higgins from being a very productive receiver in the NFL, but they do put into question just how high his ceiling is. He may only ever be very good, and not an elite receiver. Then again, if he can show improvement on his intermediate route running and overall technique, he could be a dominant force.
One thing is for sure, he’s a load to bring down.
Projection: Round 1-2
Games Watched: vs LSU (CFB Nat Champ), vs Alabama (CFB Nat Champ), vs Pitt (ACC Champ 2018), vs GA Tech, vs South Carolina, vs Virginia (ACC Champ 2019), vs Ohio State 2019, vs Texas A&M