When it comes to the Los Angeles Rams tight ends, Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett have the position on lockdown. Out of Western Kentucky, the Rams took Higbee on the third day of the 2016 NFL Draft. The Rams tight end will be heading into his fourth year after taking a step forward in his final year under contract.
Higbee didn’t have a career year in 2018, but it seemed like he felt more comfortable on the football field. Higbee’s overall offensive grade, receiving grade, and blocking grades were all career-bests according to Pro Football Focus.
While the third-year tight end fell three yards and one reception shy of his 2017 totals, what’s encouraging is his boost to 12.2 yards per reception and 8.6 yards per target. His 70.6 catch percentage was also a career-high.
Coming out of Western Kentucky, Higbee had the physical traits to be a starting tight end in the NFL. In year three, he finally put it together, despite it not always showing up on the stat sheet. In fact, Higbee finished as the eighth-best tight end in the NFL in DVOA.
When the Rams needed Higbee last season, he was there. Against the Kansas City Chiefs, he recorded six receptions in the 54-51 victory. Then in the NFC Championship game against the New Orleans Saints, Higbee tallied four receptions, including two that helped put the Rams in field goal position to win 26-23.
Higbee has earned his place on the roster. Unless one of the undrafted free agents such as Romello Brooker, Keenan Brown, or Kendall Blanton really show out in training camp and the preseason and the Rams trade Higbee, he will be on the final roster.
Even when it comes to the starting tight end, that is a position that Higbee has shared with Everett over the last two years. The Rams have a role for Higbee and he has excelled in that role under head coach Sean McVay.
Three Plays on Tape
When the Rams drafted Higbee, this is what fans expected. The tight end out of Western Kentucky was extremely athletic and capable of making plays in the red zone. While this is a great throw from Goff, Higbee makes a great adjustment on the ball to score the go-ahead touchdown.
This is not the most special play, but it’s the play of the season for Tyler Higbee. While it looks straight-forward, Higbee still has to make an adjustment on the ball and then he has the awareness to not fall, but get upfield and get a few extra yards for Greg Zuerlein. This isn’t a play that Higbee makes two years ago.
— Brad Kelly (@BradKelly17) February 4, 2019
Coming out of Western Kentucky, Higbee had questions when it came to his blocking. While he has improved, there is still room for improvement. He gets blown up by Dont’a Hightower on this play who then proceeds to make the tackle.
Will Higbee do enough to earn a second contract?
Higbee heads into 2019 in what will be a contract year. The Rams will have a big decision when it comes to bringing him back. Is he a player that they absolutely need, or is he a guy that can be replaced?
He should definitely gain interest from other teams in the league, but his future in Los Angeles with the Rams will remain in doubt. It doesn’t bode well that the team was willing to trade him for a sixth-round pick to the Minnesota Vikings.
2019 Outlook and Role
With the number of weapons that the Rams have and the emergence of Everett, it’s hard to see Higbee’s role increasing in 2019. McVay could go to more 12 personnel, but even that package would be limited.
Higbee has excelled in his current role as the team’s No. 2 tight end and he will most likely continue in that role.
Chances of Making Final Roster
As mentioned earlier, unless a player like Brooker, Brown, and Blanton really shows out in training camp and the preseason enough for McVay to feel comfortable with them, Higbee will be on the roster. Even then, Higbee wouldn’t get cut; the team would explore trade options.
The fourth-year tight end has been a guy that Goff and McVay can count on when they need him, therefore it’s hard to see him going anywhere at least for this season.