49ers Called Fit for ‘Ultra Intriguing Athlete’ With Bay Area Ties

Elijah Higgins

Getty Elijah Higgins on March 4, 2023 in Indianapolis.

There are up to four members of the neighboring Power 5 university to the San Francisco 49ers who could be taken in day two or three of the 2023 NFL Draft. Perhaps a certain Stanford alum in general manager John Lynch can pluck one away between rounds three to seven.

If there is one, though, who looks ideal and appealing in a 49ers uniform, it’s an “ultra intriguing athlete” who has a skill set that can convince the 49ers to bring him in. And the towering and athletic Cardinal recently impressed spectators at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis on March 4 with how fast he moved while carrying a 6-foot-3, 235-pound frame: Elijah Higgins.

The tall, athletic and powerhouse Cardinal offensive target played the unique “power slot” role in nearby Palo Alto. In the process, he’s gotten on NFL radars as someone who can move to tight end while being flexed out wide. NFL analyst Nicholas McGee, who is a contributor to Forbes and SB Nation, lauded his game on Wednesday, March 8 including praising Higgins’ “great size and speed combo.”

Analyst Compares Higgins to a Past 49ers Talent Called ‘The One That Got Away’

For McGee, he believes that by taking in Higgins, the 49ers can make up for their whiff on Jalen Hurd — better known as the “one that got away” from S.F. by McGee’s words.

“You remember Jalen Hurd, right?” McGee asked in his Thursday, March 9 column on SB Nation. “To be honest, you’d be forgiven for forgetting about him. Hurd, having been selected as a third-round pick in 2019, never played a regular-season game for the 49ers owing to a series of injuries. He spent each of his three seasons on injured reserve, with his most memorable contributions, a pair of preseason touchdowns against the Dallas Cowboys.

“He was never able to build on those hugely encouraging flashes and, though the 49ers possess an offense bursting at the seams with diverse skill-position players, Hurd represents the one that got away for San Francisco,” McGee continued. “The Niners planned to use Hurd, a former running back at Tennessee, as a wide receiver-tight end hybrid, having operated as a wideout after transferring from Baylor.”

There’s been chatter of the 49ers needing to draft a tight end as perennial Pro Bowler George Kittle gets older. Two notable names who surfaced in Indy were Sam LaPorta of Iowa (Kittle’s alma mater) and Cincinnati TE Josh Whyle.

Breakdown: How Higgins Could Fit

Sure, the Hurd experiment ended up being a failed one. But Higgins is a different breed — and should be worth trying on the 49ers’ end.

It’s one thing to have soft and reliable hands. However, he’s got burst to his game after the catch…which can potentially make him a newcomer to the 49ers’ “YAC brothers” of Kittle, Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk as targets who destroy defenses with their yards after the catch.

However, the 49ers have struggled with finding a consistent tall and powerful red zone target opposite of Kittle. Higgins with his frame and strength can change that as proven here versus rival Cal:

And it’s not just height and power that can get Higgins into the end zone near the goal line, but also with his quick feet which adds to the potential matchup nightmare for defenses:

Lastly, he pulled off this red zone score during Senior Bowl practices facing the taller JL Skinner of Boise State — attacking him with a stutter and go move:

The 49ers can either draft a pure tight end, or go with a Bay Area star and add a possible “power slot” element to create more matchup problems for defenders. But Higgins looks like a strong candidate to add to the Cardinal representation in S.F. with Lynch and Christian McCaffrey.

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