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Tee Higgins’ testing numbers only confirm what we knew

Tee Higgins' testing numbers only confirm what we knew
Photo Credit: USA Today Sports

Sometimes you have to wonder how much testing really matters. Seriously, these tests are without pads on, and you always hear guys talk about the difference between game speed and testing speed when referencing some numbers coming out of pro days and the combine.

However, it is undeniable that there still is some historical data that suggests the testing matters in some capacity; otherwise, it would not be talked about at all. It cannot be the crux of an evaluation, but it is a piece of the puzzle. Thus with Tee Higgins testing at Clemson Pro Day on Thursday, I had to ask the question of truly how much it all meant.

Higgins’ Pro Day Results

Higgins had numbers that, for the most part, were expected. A 4.54 official 40-yard dash time seems to be right around the ballpark where he would run based on the tape. And after that, nothing else pops out other than a very disappointing 31-inch vertical jump.

When Higgins chose not to test at the NFL Combine, the overall feeling around draftniks and analysts, in general, was that he would not test that well at all. On Thursday, those fears were confirmed to the draft world.

The full numbers for Higgins are as follows:
40: 4.54 seconds
Vertical Jump: 31 inches
Broad Jump: 123 inches
Short Shuttle: 4.53 seconds

Now, if you want to take all of those numbers in a vacuum, they all look pretty ugly. The 40-yard dash is not too bad, but 1.66 10-yard split puts him in the bottom second percentile among wide receivers. The short shuttle puts him in the bottom fifth percentile among wide receivers. Meanwhile, the 31-inch vertical puts in the bottom seventh percentile among wide receivers. There is nothing to say other than his day was rather abysmal in terms of testing.

But in reality, I do not put much stock into those numbers. Many will look at those numbers and think, ‘really… this is a guy who might go in the first round?’, and rightfully, one would be skeptical. The rationale behind not batting an eye towards those numbers is simple: Higgins plays just like how he tested.

Numbers confirm his tape

These numbers only confirm what the film shows us. Higgins is a guy who lacks dynamic athleticism to be a burner or to do much after the catch, but he can win jump balls and contested catches with size, ball skills, and physicality. That has been the formula his entire career in college.

Of course, he has a little bit more pep in his step in and out of breaks than I think some people give him credit for based on his tape. Still, the athleticism questions were always going to be a thing, even if Higgins went out on Thursday and had a great day. He does not play with a great deal of athleticism in his game.

So if you were expecting this guy to be among the top wide receivers because of his testing, you were doing this entire thing wrong from the start. It would have been great to see Higgins go out and run a 4.4 40. But, really, it does not matter. That is not his game at all.

But that brings his overall game into focus. How much are you going to trust a guy that lacks dynamic athleticism and often has trouble separating at the next level? The production was there at the college level, and he has some excellent tape, too. But in reality, how much has the NFL valued those types of receivers that can just go up and grab jump balls recently?

I think it is something to consider when thinking about Higgins’ evaluation. He could be a guy who goes in the first round like N’Keal Harry did last year, but it would not shock me if he experiences a fall into day two, either. Regardless, the testing does not change his frustrating evaluation all that much. Higgins very much is a day two talent with his profile, and he will be a case study to monitor in the modern NFL of just how good these bigger, contested-catch receives fair in today’s NFL.

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