Talk about a dream come true.
Tamaurice “Tee” Higgins could not have drawn it up any better. Not only was he the first pick in the second round, but he was picked by the team that had become his favorite in recent years, ever since A.J. Green came to town.
“He plays with grit, his jump balls and body control are unbelievable,” Higgins said in an interview with Paul Dehner, Jr. “I actually model my game after him. It’s crazy, I was just talking about this...now that this moment is here it’s just surreal.”
Cincinnati made Higgins the 33rd overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft. And it is right where he wanted to be.
“Got a meeting in with Zac right before everything shut down,” Higgins told Jay Morrison of The Athletic. “Walked away saying, ‘That is a guy I want to play for. I knew it was a special connection with the Bengals.’”
And, by all accounts, the Bengals are getting a steal, a player many people had penciled in as a first-round selection and someone who can pair with Green and Tyler Boyd to form one of the top receiving trios in the NFL.
“He’s just really, really worked his tail off from a fundamental standpoint, a technique standpoint, physical standpoint, his knowledge of the game, and he’s just become a very talented route runner,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said of Higgins. “He’s got some freaky ball skills. He can make any type of catch. He’s got kind of DeAndre Hopkins-type ball skills. He’s got Mike Williams length. But he’s got some explosiveness to him, as well.”
One look at Higgins’ career at Clemson tells you all you need to know. As a true freshman, Higgins showed flashes of brilliance with 17 catches for 345 yards (an average of 20.3 yards per catch) and two touchdowns. In 2018, Higgins helped lead Clemson to a national title when he hauled in 59 receptions for 936 yards (15.9 yards per catch) and 12 touchdowns. He recorded three catches for 81 yards and a touchdown in the championship game against Alabama.
This past season, Higgins led Clemson back to the title game with another 59 receptions for 1,167 yards (19.8 yards per catch) and 13 touchdowns. Higgins was named first-team All-ACC and finished his career tied DeAndre Hopkins and Sammy Watkins for the most receiving touchdowns in school history (27).
“One of the biggest strengths for Higgins is his ability to win the contested throws,” according to Patrick Conn of USA Today. “He has soft hands that allows him to bring in almost any throw and catches outside of his frame pose no problems for Higgins. Uses his height and length well when going up for the ball, high points it well. Most contested catches are 50/50 but for him its more like 80/20. Great body control when in flight.
“He provides position flexibility in that he can play from all three wide receiver spots on the field. His long speed can cause fits for defenders when he gets behind the defense. Really does well in tracking the ball on deep throws.”
Cincinnati spent free agency strengthening its defense. Now, it has the makings of an offense that can help to make the Bengals a real contender. Higgins is the second piece of the future they hope to build.