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Cowboys 2020 Draft: Clemson receiver Tee Higgins could provide good value for Dallas should he fall

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Once considered among the elite receivers in the class, many are wondering where Tee Higgins will be drafted.

NFL Combine - Day 2

This year’s wide receivers class is ridiculously deep with options for a WR1, a secondary complementary option, a red-zone threat, or a slot guy. Because of the depth of the class, it has pushed some wideouts down the board. Why take a wideout in round one when there are tons to choose from that can still be available late on day two and early day three?

One player that has seen their stock fall in the recent months is Clemson wide receiver Tee Higgins. It just so happens that the Dallas Cowboys are looking to add a receiver to its roster. Could the team be interested in the former Clemson star? If their interview with him is any indication, they at least have them on their radar.

If Higgins falls in the draft, Dallas should be interested.

Tee Higgins was one of the elite wide receivers in college football during his time playing for Dabo Swinney and the Tigers. The former blue-chip recruit was a go-to target for former quarterback Kelly Bryant and current signal caller Trevor Lawrence. When the Tigers needed a big play, that is who they went to often.

The former Tennessee Mr. Basketball finalist became a big-time player since the moment that he arrived on campus. He was able to use his hoops background to box-out defenders while showcasing the ability to go up and get the football. He was a nightmare for defenses to contain, as the Tigers beat the brakes off of nearly every opponent they lined up against.

Despite Higgins being a huge factor in Clemson’s success, his stock has fallen some during the draft process. Why? His testing numbers are not very pretty, raising some concern on how his game will translate to the NFL level.

Higgins sat out from testing at the NFL Combine, saying that he needed to rest after Clemson’s lengthy season that ended on January 13th. Many of LSU’s prospects did the same. With Higgins not participating in drills in Indianapolis, his only chance for athletic testing was at Clemson’s Pro Day. There were some mixed reviews on how he performed — with many worrying that his testing would knock his stock down.

Higgins’ numbers do not look very good on paper, even though his game is not being about speed or athleticism. Marcus Mosher is one of those that was “shook” after seeing the results. Below, Mosher gives a high-end and a low-end comparison for Higgins based on the numbers from the Pro Day.

Obviously, Alshon Jeffery has been a very good receiver during his career with the Bears and the Eagles. But because all of this, combined with the fact that there is so much talent at the position in this year’s class, it is increasingly likely that Higgins will be on the board for much longer than we originally anticipated.

Kyle Crabbs of The Draft Network wrote a piece on how the depth of the 2020 draft class could create some conflict in how teams value drafting a wideout early.

Lamb, Jeudy and Ruggs are a clear cut top tier. They’re dynamic talents who nearly check every box you could want. But after them, you start getting into murky waters that aren’t easily navigated without finding a comparable talent a bit further down the board. And if I can get 90% of a player a round later, I’m going to take my shots earlier in the draft at positions that possess equal talent but greater scarcity.

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If I hold two players in equal esteem in this class, the tie is going away from the receivers in the back half of the first round. There’s too much depth there to overlook in trying to make draft decisions. That is, of course, unless their names are Lamb, Jeudy or Ruggs.

Dane Brugler has Higgins falling all the way to pick 52, just one pick after the Cowboys, in his latest seven-round mock draft.

Why it would make sense

If Higgins falls in the draft, say to 51, it would be extremely smart for the Cowboys to seriously consider the Clemson star. Depending on what they do in round one and who else is on the board, it might even be considered a no-brainer.

Despite the questions that Higgins may have in terms of athleticism and speed, he proved to be a big-time player throughout his career. His 31-inch vertical is a cause for concern, but the 6-foot-4, 216-pound wideout consistently used his 34-inch arms and 9 14 inch hands to terrorize defensive backs on his way to tying some guys named DeAndre Hopkins and Sammy Watkins for the Clemson record in touchdowns with 27.

One of Higgins’ biggest selling points is his catch radius. The Clemson receiver made difficult grabs time and time again during his career with the Tigers. From Dane Brugler’s scouting guide:

Overall, Higgins needs to get stronger and continue maturing as a route runner, but his athletic tracking skills and ability to utilize every inch of his frame and expand his catch radius are playmaking traits.

Tee Higgins would give the Cowboys something they do not have on their roster — a player with sure hands and an impressive catch radius.

Why it would not make sense

Tee Higgins is not a perfect prospect. He is not on the same tier as CeeDee Lamb or Jerry Jeudy. A big factor in that is his lack of speed, athletic ability, and route-running. He will not burn you like a Henry Ruggs, make plays after the catch like a CeeDee Lamb, or create separation like a Jerry Jeudy.

Separation might be the biggest reason why his fit with the Cowboys may not be a perfect transition. Dak Prescott has taken strides with his accuracy and looks to be scratching the surface of his ceiling. Still, both Prescott and offensive coordinator Kellen Moore appear to prefer receivers that can create separation.

Per Brugler’s scouting guide, the former Clemson star averaged less than six yards per reception and that he “lacks the separation quickness” to get away from defensive backs.

doesn’t consistently sink/explode out of his breaks…lacks the separation quickness to easily uncover at the top of routes

Back to his athletic profile. There is definitely some reason for concern regarding how successful Higgins will be in the NFL. Not only does Higgins lack speed, he lacks explosion in both the short shuttle and in his vertical jump, while his hands are just 41st percentile on mockdraftable.

Also, while there is a lot to like in terms of Higgins’ hands and catch radius that he displayed routinely at Clemson, 6-foot-1 and 193-pound Jerry Jeudy actually had a better contested catch rate, per Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus:

Overall, Higgins could add an extra layer to the Cowboys offense

Despite some concerns regarding how his athletic profile will translate to the NFL, Tee Higgins has the potential to be a very good receiver on the next level. He may not possess game-breaking ability, but Higgins was the go-to receiver for the Clemson offense as the Tigers played for a national championship in two of his three seasons in college.

The Cowboys have a dynamic route-runner in Amari Cooper and a rising receiver that can stretch the field in Michael Gallup, but Tee Higgins would give the Cowboys a legitimate red zone threat with his frame and catch radius.

It is certainly no sure-thing that Higgins lasts long enough for the Cowboys to take him as there are many receiver-needy teams that will likely want to bank on the success he had in college. That said, we have seen some surprising falls for receivers in the draft that we expected to go much earlier than what they did. For instance, Hakeem Butler lasted until pick 103, while Kelvin Harmon fell all the way until the sixth-round. Higgins should not have a fall anywhere close to that extreme, but there is a chance that some teams may be a little more hesitant in taking him.

A scenario in which Higgins and Gallup are on the outside while Cooper moves inside to the slot would provide a number of matchup problems for Prescott to dissect and attack — especially in a division with weak secondary play.