Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on our Message Boards, and won the 2016 RotoViz Writing Contest. Congratulations to the author, who won a lifetime subscription to RotoViz.
While positional draft rankings are still in a relatively fluid state more than three months away, a few names are near the top of almost every wide receivers list – Laquon Treadwell, Michael Thomas, Corey Coleman, Josh Doctson, etc.
And while Baylor and TCU are relatively new tenants residing in the “upper echelon” of college football programs, Ole Miss and Ohio State have tons of name recognition.
Objective NFL coaching staffs should evaluate incoming rookies on what they see on tape and in real-time. However college pedigree, or lack thereof, can sometimes alter the professional futures of many NFL hopefuls.
While Colorado State is a somewhat well-known D-1 football program, and a few current NFL players hail from the school – most notably Crockett Gillmore – it’s safe to say that most of the country probably missed the majority of Rams’ games over the last three seasons, especially live.
It’s also safe to say that in doing so we missed out on one of the most intriguing NFL prospects entering the 2016 Draft.
Rashard Higgins is a bit slight at 190 pounds, but at 6 feet 2 inches possesses the type of frame that – given time in an NFL weight training program – could easily fill out to what NFL personnel prefer.
His raw statistical output over three seasons at Colorado State is very impressive:
What should immediately jump off the page when glancing at the above table are the astronomical totals from Higgins’s 2014 season.
Only seven other collegiate wide receivers have amassed at least 90 catches, 1700 receiving yards and 15 TDs in a single season since 2000. All but two other those players – Jordan White and Freddie Barnes being the exceptions – have seen meaningful NFL snaps.
Using the RotoViz Box Score Scout App focused on what Higgins did in his final season at CSU, we can see that the list of his statistical comparables is also nothing to sneeze at:
While none of the names listed pop off the page (yet) as a true NFL stud – Odell Beckham being the lone exception – Brandon Lloyd, Jason Avant, Michael Clayton and Jarvis Landry have all at one point in time filled the role of an above-average NFL starting wide receiver.
And while it’s fairly unlikely that Higgins – or any receiver in this class for that matter – will instantly rise to superstar status the way Beckham did, both players’ metrics from their final collegiate seasons share a striking resemblance.
With no pro day or combine results to analyze, it’s tough to say how he relates to the above mentioned wide receivers in terms of athleticism, but going simply by his collegiate production, Higgins has all the makings of a third-round draft steal.
What’s just as interesting as Higgins’ list of similar prospects is who he compares favorably to among the rest of the 2015 wide receiver draft class:
Treadwell, Pharoh Cooper, and Tyler Boyd all rank higher in the most recent update of the RotoViz Scouting Index, but all were either on par or just slightly better than Higgins in terms of collegiate production.
Western Michigan wide receiver Corey Davis, an early favorite to be one of the top wide-receiver prospects for the 2017 draft also stacks up similarly to Higgins.
The level of competition that Higgins faced while playing in the Mountain West Conference is a valid concern, as is he previously mentioned slight build, failing to stack up to more aesthetically-pleasing physical specimens such as Laquon Treadwell and Michael Thomas.
Assuming he doesn’t pull a “Maurice Clarett” at the NFL Combine and his demonstrated athleticism meets his highly-impressive collegiate production, Higgins could rise into the top-100 overall selections come April.
He has the potential to provide massive value for a savvy NFL franchise willing to allow Higgins the time to develop at the next level.