2016 NFL Draft Player Profiles: Colorado State WR Rashard Higgins

As you should know by now, our attention has now shifted to the 2016 NFL Draft as it relates to the prospects. From now until the draft takes place, we hope to profile as many draft prospects as we possibly can for you. Most of these player profiles will be centered around prospects the Pittsburgh Steelers are likely to have interest in.

A breakdown of another wide receiver. CSU’s Rashard Higgins.

#82 Rashard Higgins/WR Colorado St: 6’1/3 196

The Good

– Solid height with length and big hands to his frame (32 1/4 arms, 9 3/4 hands)
– Natural hands catcher who extends away from his frame and capable of making difficult, contested catches
– May lack top end speed but shows burst and second gear when pressing vertically, a smooth route runner that does not waste much motion
– Nuanced hand use as a route runner, able to break the arm of the DB or shoulder dip vertically to create separation or stay on the track of his stem
– YAC capable and tougher to bring down than you might anticipate given his frame
– Tracks and reacts to the football well and ability to contort body in mid-air to adjust to the football
– Tough kid willing to go and extend across the middle for the football
– Most experience outside and isolated in 3×1 but has played in the slot
– Durable and tons of starting experience

The Bad

– Not a very muscled frame, svelte build, and overall frame just appears average
– Needs to consistently sell his routes better, doesn’t use his eyes and hips on most occasions, clear difference between the ones he’s been coached to sell and the one’s he hasn’t
– Has to do a better job of creating space beyond physical tools, which will be a bit limited in the NFL
– Effort blocker but average at best, isn’t forceful on his cracks and stalk blocks aren’t anything overwhelming or powerful
– Want to see him be a little more explosive on horizontal and underneath concepts, plant and drive to create separation
– Lacks development in understanding man/zone rules, sight adjustments based on coverage, maybe primarily out of the slot where he is more uncomfortable than isolated on the outside, where the coverage is easier to discern
– Statistical regression from 2014 to 2015

Bio

– 37 game starter, three years
– Declared early, leaving school as a true junior
– 2015: 75 receptions, 1062 yards (14.2 avg) 8 TDs
– 2014: 96 receptions, 1750 yards (18.2 avg) 17 TDs
– Finalist for Biletnikoff Award in 2014, 1st-Team AP All-American
– Played basketball and ran track in high school

Tape Breakdown

Higgins was one of those guys I was excited to finally sink my teeth into. Had heard a lot about him, definitely knew some people loved him, but had no idea what was truth and what was fandom. It took me a little while to see it but by the end, I definitely warmed up to him.

When I think of Higgins, I think of hands. In the conventional sense, the ability to extend them away from his frame, create a bigger catch radius, and make difficult, contested catches.

The pass is a little high but Higgins finds it, extends, and quickly puts the ball away before getting upfield and picking up YAC.

But his hands go beyond making catches. He’s an advanced route runner that is able to use his upper body to keep separation and win in man coverage.

Stems outside off the line and presses vertically. But watch Higgins’ left arm hold the defender’s right downfield. It’s subtle and isn’t going to be called in college or the NFL, and creates a bit of separation between the two. Defensive backs like to be able to feel the receiver and Higgins isn’t letting the corner do that. He takes his arm off in time as the ball is near, adjusts to it, and makes the grab. This is nuanced route running and some impressive tape, especially for a true junior who’s played college ball for three seasons.

Look at it in this stillshot, Higgins pinning his left arm over the corner’s right.

StockHiggins1

At the top of the screen, this is a nice shoulder dip to stay on his route down the sideline. Doesn’t allow himself to get bumped off it, keeping course and his speed. The pass is high and incomplete but again shows the nuances of Higgins’ game.

Though his top end speed may not blow anyone away, I see a second gear in his game, especially when pressing vertically. Sort of a sluggo here with Higgins starting on a slant and gaining inside leverage before planting and driving upfield. Watch him buzz away from this corner and create space. Again, he’s at the top of the screen, the #1 receiver to the offense’s left.

The number one issue I saw with Higgins is the need to put a better effort to selling his routes with his eyes and hips. Cornerbacks don’t read feet. They read eyes and hips, and as Coach Shakira told us, hips don’t lie. I’ve seen Higgins sell post routes well but not much else, leading me to believe he’s been really coached up to sell those but less so on other route concepts.

With the corner sitting off in coverage, Higgins does nothing to try and sell this backshoulder fade. Just runs to his spot and turns. If it’s press, sure, you don’t have to do as much because the cornerback’s back is to the ball and you just need late hands/eyes to pluck the ball. But when the CB can read your route? Gotta sell it more. The corner easily breaks on it and bats the ball away.

And though he can stay on his route vertically, he might have some more trouble versus stronger corners underneath. This one just destroys him.

I don’t see Higgins to ever be a bonafide #1 because of some of his limited physical tools. And that is worrying me a little of where he’ll fit in the NFL. Didn’t spent much time in the slot and his worst tape came from there. Doesn’t have the pure size/speed to be an X and isolated like he was at CSU and he isn’t the imposing, blocking-capable Z receiver either. But receivers come in all shapes and sizes and it’s a little unfair to paint with that broad of a brush. Higgins has that mix of reliability and explosion to make him an all-around threat. If he can sell his routes a bit better, with the nuances he’s already shown, he can be a money guy to trot out in 11 personnel, the base of most offense’s already.

Projection: Mid-Late 3rd

Games Watched: at Colorado, vs Boise St, vs UNLV, at New Mexico, vs Nevada

Previous Player Profiles
Hunter HenryEli AppleLaquon TreadwellDadi NicolasKendall Fuller
Deion JonesJihad WardKevin PetersonVonn BellMichael Caputo
Andrew BillingsMackensie AlexanderTyler ErvinAustin BlytheChris Jones
Sheldon RankinsNoah SpenceJordan JenkinsYannick NgakoueDarian Thompson
Bryce WilliamsCre’von LeblancHenry Krieger-CobleLeonard FloydJosh Garnett
Kevin HoganCorey ColemanShaq LawsonAustin JohnsonDeAndre Houston-Carson
William Jackson IIIVernon ButlerSean DavisTyler BoydJalen Ramsey
Taveze CalhounGermain IfediNick VannettJack AllenAlonzo Russell
Leonte CarrooTyler HigbeeKeanu NealCyrus JonesD.J. White
Austin HooperTyvis PowellJeremy CashDevon CajusteDeiondre’ Hall
Justin SimmonsJonathan JonesLawrence ThomasJason SpriggsCarl Nassib
Ken CrawleyKyler Fackrell

About the Author

Alex Kozora

Full-time blogger from mom’s basement. Marrying tape and statistics. Chidi Iwuoma is my favorite Steeler of all-time.

  • Carson Rowley

    Steelers and Colorado State fan here. First off, please fix your title, it’s Colorado State. Second agree with basically everything you’ve said, I think a factor that will get missed a lot is that his junior year he had multi year started and draft pick of the Saints throwing to him. This year he had a young developmental QB throwing to him, PLUS a new more complicated offense with a new coaching staff. Not dismissing all of the things said about him, but I think the whole picture needs looked at here.

  • Rusted Out

    Hey Alex, I noticed you doing alot of run downs on receivers. Knowing how stocked the Steelers are at the position, are you just projecting based on what they historically do in the draft? What I mean by that is that they always seem to grab a wideout every year, and it’s turned out very well for them.

  • Ike Evans

    Looks like AB at central michigan

  • Alex Kozora

    I like to mix things up a little bit. I can’t watch one position for too long because then I’ll start getting careless and seeing the same thing. You never know what could happen in a draft or what teams in the North will do.

    But yes, they do grab a WR nearly every year. All but twice under Tomlin. Restock and reload.

  • Alex Kozora

    Yes, sorry Carson, the school was wrong. We had put up the report on Spruce from CU and I got mixed up.

  • PaeperCup

    Went to CSU from 00-05…the Glory Days. But I agree, he had a MONSTER year before, but unfortunately their QB was quite the drop off from Garret Grayson (who was drafted by the Saints last year). Not saying his production was just because of Grayson, but it did help him reach his potential. Not the perfect WO, but I can see him being like an Emanuel Sanders type player.

  • PaeperCup

    Can we get a profile on Shilique Calhoun

  • Carson Rowley

    Sweet! lucky you! I was at CSU 08-13 so some of the darkest days for football… haha and yea I was referencing Grayson, was just making it kinda general terms. (rereading my post it probably would have been easier to just say Grayson haha)

  • Vinhuddle

    I like this guy albeit most of their gms aren’t shown locally for me but he always seemed to stick out for some reason. Don’t know if the Steelers should take a wr that early and with so few late rd picks…man I wish they had those later rd picks back. He could be a steal in the 5th. Just my 2¢ however. Hurry up Draft!!!

  • Alex Kozora

    Dave is working on it as we speak.