When it comes to value and quality of play, no player on the Los Angeles Rams seems to invite more controversy than Tyler Higbee.
One of only three players remaining from the Jeff Fisher era, Higbee has played more offensive snaps for Sean McVay than any other player in the world other than Rob Havenstein. As a former coach of tight ends, the fact that McVay has never started anyone at the position other than Higbee (except for the few times when he’s been forced to) says more about the 29-year-old’s value than drops or receiving yards.
Conversely, the Rams’ incomplete search for an heir apparent to Higbee at tight end is not for lack of trying.
The team drafted Gerald Everett in the second round in 2017, then Brycen Hopkins in the fourth round in 2020, and they took a long-term flyer on Jacob Harris in 2021, also a fourth round pick. L.A. has made a concerted effort to give McVay not just a tight end who could have a greater ceiling than Higbee, but at least one who could reliably handle starting if Higbee is injured or should he part with the team in the next couple of years.
Because we have yet to see any signs during the regular season of Hopkins, Harris, or Kendall Blanton being prepared to do that, Tyler Higbee should be able to build on the career-high 883 snaps he played in 2021. I do not participate in fantasy football, but I can easily imagine that if you do, that’s one reason why you’d be underwhelmed by Higbee.
However, on the actual field, it seems that Matthew Stafford and McVay trust only one player at the position and tight end has seen its value skyrocket in recent years.
#9 - TE Tyler Higbee
Last season, Tyler Higbee caught 61 passes for 560 yards and five touchdowns in the regular season. His 85 targets over 15 games is only four shy of the 89 targets that he caught in 2019 with Jared Goff, but that season Higbee had more 80-yard games in the final month than he had in all of 2021 with Stafford.
Higbee caught 43 passes for 522 yards in the final five games of 2019. But Higbee only had 560 yards total in 2021, with a season-high of 69 yards in Week 17 against the Baltimore Ravens and his averages were down across the board:
- 6.6 yards per target is 2.1 fewer Y/T than Higbee’s 2020 season.
- His 9.2 yards per catch is 1.4 yards below his previous career-low as a starter
- Higbee’s 37 yards per game is almost 12 yards below his 2019 average on almost the same number of targets
Higbee also dropped three passes last season, and for whatever reason, three of the passes thrown in his direction were intercepted. In three playoff games, Higbee caught nine passes for 115 yards with seven first downs, but then an injury in the NFC Championship caused him to sit out the Super Bowl.
That’s where we got a longer look at Blanton and Hopkins, both of whom played well in the playoffs, but to what degree is McVay and offensive coordinator Liam Coen comfortable with taking snaps away from Higbee for either of his backups? Not just as a receiver, but of course also and most importantly, as a blocker.
Tyler Higbee continued to show he is one of the more underrated TEs in the league in 2021. Higs had his 2nd season with 60+ receptions & 3rd straight with 500+ yards. Underrated athleticism and a solid blocker. Even though he missed the SuperBowl, he earned his championship medal pic.twitter.com/rFIp71VnN8— RAMS ON FILM (@RamsOnFilm) April 1, 2022
But the question with Higbee is similar to that of a lot of other Rams right now: Do the Rams see the need to pay him for the long-term?
At 29, with his 30th birthday coming up in January, Tyler Higbee is actually one of the oldest starting tight ends in the NFL now. Among tight ends with at least 100 receptions over the last three seasons, only Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz, Jared Cook, Rob Gronkowski (now retired again), and Jimmy Graham were born before Higbee. Cook and Graham are unsigned and could be retired without knowing it.
That would only leave Kelce and Ertz.
Higbee is signed through the next two seasons, meaning he could hit free agency at 31 in 2024 and either sign with another team or potentially be on his way out of the league. The Rams want Hopkins, Blanton, or Harris to step up before then. Until they do, Higbee remains a starter, a vital part of the offense, and one of McVay’s most experienced players at one of McVay’s most favorite positions.
First one out - CB Robert Rochell
#20 - QB John Wolford
#19 - CB Troy Hill
#18 - C Brian Allen
#17 - ILB Ernest Jones
#16 - WR Van Jefferson
#15 - S Jordan Fuller
#14 - LG David Edwards
#13 - RB Cam Akers
#12 - DT Greg Gaines
#11 - RT Rob Havenstein
#10 - DL A’Shawn Robinson
Who should rank higher on the top-20 most important Rams of 2022?
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TE Tyler Higbee
RB Cam Akers
Same question: Who should rank higher?
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