NEPD Staff Writer: Mike Gerken
The Patriots have the best Tight End in the game, maybe ever. Gronk has revolutionized the position and shown teams what they can do if they have a mismatch at the Tight End position. After Gronk however, the Patriots are very thin. Scott Chandler did very little to warrant a second year on the team and Mike Williams is more of a glorified Offensive Lineman than a Tight End. Last year, the team did draft an intriguing prospect in A.J. Derby, but he is raw and coming off an injury, so he is a long shot at best. Needless to say, the Tight End position could use an influx of youth and talent, so today we take a look at one of the lesser known, but more intriguing players at the position.
Name: Tyler Higbee (#82)
School: Western Kentucky (Sr.)
Weight: 250 Lbs.
Higbee has a great combination of size and athleticism. He has a well proportioned body with thick shoulders, thin waist, and strong legs. He uses his body and long arms to give his Quarterback a big target with a large catch radius and has soft hands to make even the toughest catches look routine. He is a smooth runner with good burst off the line of scrimmage. Higbee is dangerous after the catch as he has the straight line speed to avoid tacklers as well as the power to run over them. He is a willing and active blocker in the run game. Higbee possesses all the necessary traits to be a great overall Tight End and a real mismatch in the passing game.
Higbee has dealt with his fair share of injuries over his career, with the most recent being a sprained knee that forced him to miss five games this season. Higbee also had to miss the Senior Bowl due to an injury. The injuries have limited his playing time and experience and there will be a learning curve in just about every aspect of his game. While Higbee is a willing blocker in the run game, he does need some refinement in his technique. He tends to get off balance, lunging towards his opponent rather than squaring up his opponent and locking onto them with his long arms. Because of Higbee’s size, tacklers tend to go after his knees when trying to bring him down, hence the injury concerns. Higbee also tends to body catch the ball rather than attacking the ball with this hands. This leads to some passes that are deflected away, which for a guy with his size and catch radius, should happen.
So far, my exposure to this Tight End class is limited, but it will be tough for the rest of the class to impress me as much as Higbee did. Higbee shows a good all around game that any team could use. I love his combination of size and straight line speed and while he may not possess great agility, he has enough to get open consistently. He needs some refinement in his blocking, but his shows on tape that he is willing to do it and he has the raw skills to become an asset in that department. He has limited game experience so he may have some growing pains when he gets to the NFL. The injuries are a bit of a concern as well, but the raw talent is very enticing and I think he could be a great weapon for the Patriots with a little time to get acclimated to the speed and intricacies of the NFL. With this weak class, I think if he is still on the board at 60, the Patriots have to think long and hard about taking him.