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Tyler Higbee NFL Draft Prospect Profile: WR-turned-TE has big upside

Tyler Higbee excited fans at Western Kentucky and simultaneously left hem wanting more. That is the same feeling NFL scouts have as Higbee missed significant time in his senior year and has almost none of the usual pre-draft analysis.

Joshua Lindsey-USA TODAY Sports

In 2011, Tyler Higbee was a 6'5", 200-pound two-star wide receiver on his way from Clearwater, Florida to Western Kentucky.  Now, in the early going of 2016, he is a 6'6", 250-pound tight end garnering interest from NFL teams.  Higbee's conversion to significance began when he played in eleven games as a true freshman and caught just two passes for 92 yards and a touchdown.  He then spent the next several years transitioning to tight end.  He has added the bulk to play the position, but maintained the athleticism and big play potential he demonstrated early on.

Higbee is an interesting prospect in a disappointing tight end class and really started coming on in his junior campaign, when he played behind current Green Bay Packers tight end Mitchell Henry.  That year, Higbee put up 15 receptions that year in six games, turning those 15 receptions into 230 yards and 4 touchdowns.  He had a very good senior year as well, although he had to show his prowess in beating the likes of Marshall and Middle Tennessee State.  He missed a large opportunity to make more noise when an injury prevented him from playing on a big stage against LSU in Death Valley.  In fact, injury kept Higbee off the field for four weeks during the regular season.  In nine games, he put up 38 receptions, 563 yards and eight touchdowns.  That was good enough to put Higbee in a tie for the most touchdowns among NCAA tight ends.  However, Higbee then missed the Miami Beach Bowl to finish his college playing time.

The post-season has been little help or hindrance as Higbee has not be able to take part in any of the public and pivotal moments of the normal pre-draft process.  Higbee pulled out of the Senior Bowl as his knee injury was still bothering him.  Then, he did not take part in any of the Combine field drills.  Higbee's only chance to showcase his speed in shorts will be at Western Kentucky's pro day scheduled for March 29th.

However, Higbee will remain intriguing barring a complete disaster of a pro day.  Higbee's speed is definitely something that will catch attention.  Even as a converted wide receiver, he has the bulk to play the position at the NFL level.  His tall frame and good hands are going to make someone very interested. Higbee himself recognizes the stress that a receiving tight end can put on a defense, demonstrating so in his media interview at the NFL Scouting Combine: "I think the tight ends can create mismatches with the linebackers and safeties," Higbee said. "Sometimes they put a linebacker on them and they are too quick for them and sometimes they try to put a safety on them and they are too small for them. I think with my game I can create mismatches and hopefully contribute to a team's success."

Higbee also sees himself as an smart football player, and thinks that this intelligence is necessary to play the tight end position. "You have to know all the routes, the route tree, the concepts, as well as pass protection and run blocking. As a tight end you have to know all those." However, developing the blocking acumen continues to be a work in progress for this converted receiver: "I have been working on my run blocking and technique (to) where I can do both of those where I am not just a one-way guy."

Still, health concerns and the lack of current measurable have him projected around the third or fourth rounds in the upcoming draft.  Teams are going to spend the remaining two months evaluating if he will be medically cleared for training camps, although he does expect to work out fully at Pro Day on March 29. If he clears that hurdle, he could be a very good fit in Green Bay. With the sure handed but glacially slow Richard Rodgers, Higbee could prove to be the athletic counterpart.  Having a faster tight end to pair with Rodgers could provide a tiered attack from the tight end position and open up the offense to use a two tight end formation more.