While the attention in the wide receiver room for the Cincinnati Bengals has turned to Ja’Marr Chase, the former LSU teammate of quarterback Joe Burrow whom they drafted with the fifth overall pick over other options such as a premium left tackle prospect, Burrow himself wanted to remind reporters that his favorite target isn’t the only up-and-comer. There is another.
That would be Tee Higgins, whom the Bengals drafted with the top pick in the second round last year, 33rd overall. As a rookie, he caught 67 passes for 908 yards—better numbers than the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Chase Claypool, mind you—with a healthy six touchdowns.
“He looks like a different guy out there”, Burrow recently told reporters about his draft classmate. “We were throwing the deep balls and the first couple I under threw him a little bit and I was like, ‘Gee, Tee, where did that come from?’ I didn’t really expect that from him. He’s getting out of there this year. We have some horses on offense that I’m really excited about. Tee’s going to have a big year”.
He already had a JuJu Smith-Schuster-like rookie season. Can he have a Smith-Schuster-like second year? The Steelers’ receiver broke out his second season in 2018 with a 111-reception, 1,426-yard effort that landed him in the Pro Bowl, though he hasn’t been able to duplicate that success since.
The Bengals are assembling a strong receiving trio for Burrow with Higgins and Chase, paired with the veteran slot receiver Tyler Boyd, himself a former second-round draft pick, who has been among the most prolific players out of the slot over the past several seasons. But Higgins may be the wildcard in terms of determining just how high they can ascend.
“When you’re a young player you kind of find your way through. I think he’s found that”, Burrow said of Higgins navigating through his rookie season. “Now he knows what it takes to get to the next level of his game. He put all the work in to do it. I’m very, very excited about where he is at and where he is headed. He’s going to be a problem for defenses”.
And now he’ll be Cameron Sutton’s problem, or perhaps James Pierre’s, when they line up against the Steelers, who lost two of their top three cornerbacks from last season. If Burrow really proves the sort of quarterback everyone thought he was coming out of college last year, this Bengals offense could quickly turn deadly. Once they settle the offensive line, at least.