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NFL breakout players 2018: Tyler Higbee can make the Rams stop forgetting about him

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The third-year tight end is a matchup nightmare — if the Rams use him more.

San Francisco 49ers v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Last year in 16 starts in the regular season, Los Angeles Rams tight end Tyler Higbee had 25 catches for 295 yards and one touchdown. Frankly, I have no idea why LA didn’t use him a lot more in the passing game.

First off, the guy with his size and athleticism is a matchup problem for most teams. Put a linebacker on him and he can run away from him. Put a DB on him and he can make a catch over the top of him. Higbee is also a good route runner who was open quite a bit on film.

Yet the Rams never seemed to really feature him all last season.

I just don’t get it.

As a run blocker, Higbee is like a wall. I didn’t see him driving a bunch of guys 10 yards off the ball or racking up a bunch of pancake blocks, but the one thing he was really good at was staying between the guy he was blocking and the ball carrier. He was just as good blocking a defensive end on the line of scrimmage as he was blocking linebackers on the second level.

Higbee is kind of the total package, and yet at key moments last season, especially at the end of a few games, the Rams didn’t even have him in when they needed to make a play in the passing game. And I don’t mean they went with three-wide receiver sets or something. I mean they would put Gerald Everett in instead. Look, I don’t have anything against Everett, but from what I saw, LA would have been much better off just leaving Higbee in most of those times.

Off the field is a potential concern.

Higbee, though, has stayed out of trouble since a disturbing incident right before the Rams drafted him in 2016. Higbee punched a man of Middle Eastern descent while witnesses said someone — Higbee denied it was him — shouted racial slurs at the man.

Higbee pleaded guilty last summer to second degree assault under emotional disturbance and avoided jail time. The NFL never suspended Higbee and likely won’t at this point, especially since the incident happened before he was in the league. It sounds like one would’ve been appropriate in this situation, however.

My personal feelings aside, I still think Higbee could put up huge numbers for the Rams this season if given the opportunity, but I’m just not sure if they will up his targets or not. If they do, Higbee could end up turning in a Pro Bowl-caliber performance on an offense loaded with talent this year.

Confidence level: Moderate