Despite letting Terrelle Pryor walk this past offseason, the Cleveland Browns seemed confident enough in their starting wide receivers Corey Coleman and Kenny Britt going into 2017. Through two games, it is fair to say that the results have been mixed. Britt has done an admirable job of looking like Browns era Dwayne Bowe in what is probably the least wanted sequel since Paul Blart Mall Cop 2.
Through two games, he has two catches for 15 yards. Coleman had caught five of his six targets in Week 1 for 53 yards and a touchdown but was off the pace somewhat against the Ravens on Sunday. He had just one catch nine yards on his seven targets, no doubt unassisted by the quarterback jockeying between Deshone Kizer and Kevin Hogan. Then, as luck would have it (at least when you’re the Browns) he appeared to injure the same hand that he broke last season, which forced him to miss six games. The team fears he has broken it again. So what now for the Browns? Well, can I introduce you to my friend Rashard Higgins?
Rashard Higgins was one of the four WRs the Browns drafted in 2016, going off the board with the 172nd overall selection in the fifth round. In his three seasons at Colorado State University, he set school records in catches, receiving yards and TDs, finishing with a 239-3649-31 line. Using the RotoViz Box Score Scout app, we can look at players he enjoyed comparable collegiate success as, as well as close physical comps.
This is a difficult athletic profile because mid-sized, relatively unathletic late-rounders struggle to earn a true opportunity. When they do, the results can often be impressive. It’s not particularly likely that Higgins will be an Antonio Brown or Stefon Diggs,1 but he shares elite age-adjusted production with those players. Higgins declared early and was one of the younger players in last year’s draft.
In fact, when you look at Higgins from a college production standpoint, his numbers impress next to those of potentially similar players like Jarvis Landry and Sterling Shepard.
Rashard Higgins was active for all 16 games of his rookie season but saw just 12 targets. He did turn these into six catches for 77 yards, with his best performance coming in a Week 12 loss to the Giants. He caught both of his targets for 34 yards in the game. He did not make the initial 53 man roster, getting cut on September 3rd, but he was placed on the practice squad. This stint did not last long, as he was signed to the active roster on Saturday, before seeing action on Sunday against the Ravens. And boy, did he see some action.
Playing on 76.1 percent of all offensive snaps, he ran 88.4 percent of his routes out of the slot, and it was from the slot that he reeled in six of nine targets for 91 yards. He finished the day with 11 total targets and seven catches for 93 yards. All were team highs. His 13.6 yards average depth of target is good for 13th among WRs who have seen at least 10 targets in 2017. He showed, against a bloody good Ravens defense, that he could be the answer as the long-term replacement for Andrew Hawkins.
He showed considerably better chemistry with Kizer than he did with Hogan. When Hogan was at the helm, he saw four targets which he converted into two catches for just 12 yards. But with Kizer, he was targeted seven times, with five grabs for 83 yards. He certainly appears to have the starting QB’s trust. Higgins is available in 99.7 percent of ESPN leagues and should be one of the first players taken on waivers ahead of Week 3.2
But hang on a minute. There are some factors to consider before we crown Rashard Higgins the greatest slot receiver since the halcyon days of yore when Wes Welker routinely hooked up with Tom Brady. It was only one game for Higgins, albeit a very good game. But we’ve seen false dawns from players before, particularly Browns players, and should be prepared to accept the unpleasant possibility that Higgins is not automatically destined for greatness after one good game. We all remember Kevin Ogletree’s Week 1 performance in 2012, don’t we?
How to Play It
Higgins has a fairly undaunting schedule coming up, with the Browns taking on the Colts, Bengals, and Jets over their next three games. The Colts (616) are behind just the Patriots and the Saints in total passing yards allowed. If only for a week, Rashard Higgins offers WR3/Flex upside.
Charles Kleinheksel has all of your waiver wire news and intelligence in the Week 3 Waiver Wire.