In Week 5 against the Seattle Seahawks last season, Gerald Everett was targeted a career-high 11 times, catching seven passes for 136 yards. This was the first time Everett had eclipsed 50 yards in a game since Week 2 of his rookie campaign when he had three catches for 95 yards against Washington.
Unfortunately for Everett, he had 134 yards in his first two career contests but only 12 catches on 28 targets for 110 yards over the next 14.
In that time, teammate Tyler Higbee wasn’t doing much better. Higbee had only 17 yards in the first two games of 2017 — his second — and then Higbee posted a career-high four catches for 98 yards in Week 5 against the Seahawks. (Weird fact: the Seahawks and Rams have met in three straight Week 5s, though that won’t happen this year unless the schedule is tweaked which isn’t impossible?) But Higbee also hadn’t gone over 50 yards in any other game.
From the beginning of his career in 2016 to Week 12 of 2019, these are Tyler Higbee’s stats:
141 targets, 86 catches, 884 yards, five touchdowns, 61% catch rate, 6.3 yards per target in 58 games. Per game, he was at 2.4 targets, 1.5 catches, and 15.2 yards.
Over Gerald Everett’s entire career, he sits here:
142 targets, 86 catches, 972 yards, seven touchdowns, 60.6% catch rate, 6.85 yards per target in 45 games. Per game, he is at 3.2 targets, 1.9 catches, and 21.6 yards.
With this picture we get remarkably close to the same number of targets and catches, but Everett did a little bit more with each reception and was targeted more often. This of course changed when Everett missed Weeks 13-15 and went without a reception in the final two games as well. That was Higbee time.
As the unquestioned TE1, Higbee reset expectations and gave the Rams realistic optimism that they have one of the best bargains in the NFL.
In the final five weeks of 2019, Higbee was targeted 56 times, which is more targets than he had in any of his first three seasons. The most targets he had had in any season was 45 back in 2017. On those 56 targets, Higbee caught 43 passes for 522 yards and two touchdowns. He averaged 12.1 yards per catch, 9.32 yards per target, and had a 76.8% catch rate.
Last season George Kittle, the best tight end in the league, averaged 12.4 yards per catch, 9.8 yards per target, and had a catch rate of 79.4%.
But prior to Higbee’s offensive explosion, Everett had been slightly more productive, younger, and was drafted two rounds higher. There was more of a sense that Everett was a “Sean McVay pick” and therefore would be a better fit for a Sean McVay offense, yet Higbee clearly showed that the offense is capable of thriving with him as a number one option. Not just for tight ends, but for any position on the offense.
In the four games prior to Higbee’s run, LA was averaging only 14.75 points per game.
In the five games with Higbee as the top receiver, LA averaged 29 points per game.
Next season, new offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell and McVay will have to decide which tight end they favor. It’s not that both can’t be utilized often, as they had been in the past, but was the offense at its best with a simplified version that didn’t include dividing attention between them? Is the best version of the 2020 Rams really one where Higbee and Everett both have around the same targets, catches, and yards? Or one that favors Higbee, who is under contract for several more years?
Everett will be a free agent in 2021 and LA’s lack of cap space combined with the drafting of Brycen Hopkins in the fourth round seems to suggest he won’t be back. Higbee’s four-year contract extension kicks in this year and he’ll be around through 2023 at least, making a ridiculously reasonable $7 million per season in final three years.
People say weird things like “It’s a good problem to have” in situations like this. Having Everett and Higbee (and Hopkins maybe) is anything but a problem. At least, not for the Rams.
Which Rams TE ends up with the most YARDS in 2020?
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