The Los Angeles Rams were one of the few teams with an All-Pro in every position group minus running back and tight end — giving them one of the more complete rosters in 2021 while on their way to the Super Bowl.
Yet, one of those positions boasts the “most underrated” member of the Rams title by Football Outsiders/ESPN. And this player is a savvy veteran who has two of the top tight ends beat in Travis Kelce and George Kittle in a key category
Vincent Verhei of Football Outsiders/ESPN dove into who he believes earns the underrated label on the champs on Friday, July 1. He has also been lauded for his grit and leadership on the Rams in the TE room: Tyler “Big Rig Higs” Higbee.
Where Higbee Earns ‘Underrated’ Label
For tight ends in the league, it’s hard to be grouped alongside the Kansas City Chiefs perennial Pro Bowler Kelce and the veteran San Francisco 49ers All-Pro Kittle. Both have established themselves as the elite in the TE room and the top shelf other tight ends would love to reach.
Verhei, however, made this discovery that places the 6-foot-6, 255-pound Higbee in a room with Kittle and Kelce.
“Only three tight ends have ranked in the top 15 in receiving DYAR (defensive adjusted yards above replacement) at Football Outsiders in each of the past three years: George Kittle, Travis Kelce and Higbee,” Verhei explained.
Higbee may not be as athletically gifted and fleet footed like the two Pro Bowl talents. But Verhei explained how Higbee has the faces of tight ends beat in a certain category.
“Higbee doesn’t have the volume of those other two, and he’s not as explosive, but he moves the chains, picking up a first down on 56% of his third- or fourth-down targets since 2019 — better than Kittle (51%) or Kelce (50%),” Verhei explained. “Higbee is also reliable with more touchdowns (13) than drops (eight) in that timeframe.”
It’s certainly not the first time Higbee was given the “U” word to describe his game. His athleticism and blocking ability has been lauded among Ram fans.
Outside of Football Outsiders/ESPN, the voice of the Rams J.B. Long gave Higbee his praise.
Long unveiled his listings of 2022 breakout candidates on the Rams and made a mention to the tight end now entering his seventh season in the league.
“Tyler Higbee is the unquestioned leader and an absolute warrior,” Long said. “But he’s been through the shredder in recent seasons as the primary option in 11-personnel groupings.”
As the top option when the Rams operate out of 11 personnel (one tight end and one running back formations), Long mentioned how Higbee went on to play in 92 percent of the offensive snaps last season until his knee injury during the NFC title game.
Higbee is returning from that devastating ailment, but he told the L.A. media on May 17 that “the knee is coming along well.”
Higbee is now heading toward UC Irvine on July 23 ready to team with newcomer wide receiver Allen Robinson and head into a TE room that will be missing Johnny Mundt, who joined Ex-Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell with the Minnesota Vikings. But the Rams should find solace in knowing they have one of the league’s “most underrated” tight ends and an “unquestioned leader.” And now he gets another year to build up his own chemistry with Stafford.