Throughout the years, the expectations of a tight end have evolved.
For decades, blocking was their primary job. They were bigger, tougher (and certainly slower) than today’s tight ends. Sure, they’d catch the occasional pass here and there, but their primary objective was protecting the quarterback.
Fast forward to 2018 and the role of a tight end has drastically changed. Blocking is a still a huge part of the job - and one that typically hinders a rookie’s ability to step in and contribute immediately - but you’d better know how to run a route and hold onto a football should it come your way.
It was an exciting time when the Los Angeles Rams selected Tyler Higbee - a converted wide receiver in college - in the 4th round with the 110th overall pick of the 2016 NFL Draft...for a couple reasons.
For starters, it marked the end of the TE Jared Cook era for the Rams. Secondarily, the big-bodied (6’6”) tight end figured to be the sure-handed, field-stretching weapon fellow rookie QB Jared Goff could come to rely on. That season wasn’t kind to Goff or Higbee because of, you know, the coaching and all. But that’s a story for another day.
Higbee’s first two seasons with the team have been...quiet. With Jeff Fisher calling the shots in 2016, Higbee sat behind veteran TE Lance Kendricks, hauling in 11 catches while playing in all 16 games. Last season - in a new offense with Head Coach Sean McVay - his snaps, his role, and his stats all increased. Again, a quiet 2017 campaign yielded a start in all 16 games, roughly 71% of the offensive snaps, with 25 catches for 295 yards and one touchdown.
Higbee proved to be the heir apparent to Kendricks in 2016, and now there’s another tight end in LA who’s knocking on the door looking for more work at his position.
As aforementioned, it typically takes rookie tight ends a little bit longer to acclimate to the NFL game simply because of how drastically their roles and responsibilities change from the college setting to the pros. But it’s a near certainty that TE Gerald Everett, the Rams’ very first pick in the 2017 NFL Draft (round 2, 44th overall), sees his snap count increase this season as he saw the field on just shy of 29% of offensive plays last season.
Is Higbee the likely starter heading into 2018? I’d say so. Is his spot on the roster therefore safe? Absolutely. But based on draft status alone, the Rams have big plans for Everett. Barring any setbacks, 2018 could be the year where we start to see the balance of work shift in his favor. Maybe something like a 50/50 split in the upcoming year? It remains to be seen, but McVay is a huge proponent of 11 personnel.
So if Everett sees more playing time this year, it’ll be at the expense of Higbee’s snap count.
More of the same, really. There are a lot of mouths to feed in Los Angeles. It’s almost as if players like Higbee and Everett are luxuries in the offense — given the fact that they’re fielding receiving threats like WR Brandin Cooks, WR Robert Woods, WR Cooper Kupp, and RB Todd Gurley on the majority of plays.
I expect both tight ends to make some big plays when called upon this season. I’d also expect them to be fewer and farther between than the aforementioned WR’s and RB. But who knows? With that starting cast of receivers, the matchups should look awfully appetizing for the TE’s this year.
Chances of making the final roster (10/10)
Feel free to buy yourself a soon-to-be obsolete Higbee jersey...not because he won’t be there, but because it’s got a little bit of gold on it, silly.