Another week, another monster game from Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins.
After a slow day in Denver a little over a week ago, Higgins returned to his old, high-output self on Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens. It was his fourth performance with more than 100 yards in his last five games, and he’s now surpassed the 1,000-yard mark on the year. Higgins’ 1,029 yards have him ranked 15th in the NFL this season, so it’s time we asked the big question: where does he rank among all NFL receivers?
The spike in Higgins’ production over the last five weeks has been fascinating to watch. For much of the 2021 season, it seemed like his role had diminished since last year, when he put up 908 yards on 67 catches. At least for the first 11 weeks, it was rookie Ja’Marr Chase who was outshining not only Higgins but every other rookie in the NFL. The rookie was averaging nearly 87 yards per game with eight touchdowns in his first 10 career games. Meanwhile, Higgins, who had missed a couple of early games with injury, was averaging fewer than 56 yards per game with two touchdowns on the year.
Since then, it’s pretty much been The Higgins Show for Cincinnati. His game against the Ravens on Sunday showed off the peak of his dominance, at least… so far. The sophomore receiver set a career-high with 194 yards, and his two touchdowns also matched the career-high he set three games into 2020. Part of that performance included an incredible highlight catch over two Ravens defenders on a go route.
Higgins’ ability to make plays on the football when he’s targeted is plenty of reason to put him in one of the top tiers of NFL receivers. When he gets looks downfield, he (clearly) makes plays. He’s also been a production monster this season. But what takes him to an even higher echelon of receiving talent is what he’s able to do off the ball, not only as a highly talented blocker on run plays and short passes but on many plays not designed to go his way.
That includes that 52-yard bomb on Sunday. The play wasn’t even designed to go to Higgins; he was just the decoy route to get fellow receiver Tyler Boyd open. But Higgins had sprinted down the field on his route. Even though he had drawn the double coverage downfield, Joe Burrow was feeling himself on Sunday and let it fly.
Given his sophomore receiver’s demonstrable talent at high-pointing the football, the result of a play shouldn’t be a surprise.
Over the last few weeks, Higgins has skyrocketed his way into being among the NFL’s top receivers, with his game on Sunday being the best performance of his young career. Alongside a rookie stud like Chase and an established veteran producer like Boyd, the sophomore receiver hasn’t lost a step in production at all. Instead, his continued dominance has established Cincinnati’s receiving trio as one of the NFL’s most dangerous. Their quarterback’s willingness and ability to spread the ball around doesn’t hurt either. Now, through 16 weeks, the Bengals are the only team to have two “true” receivers—i.e. not tight ends or running backs—with more than 1,000 yards this season.
Still, it’s hard to put Higgins in the highest tier of NFL receivers when he isn’t the No. 1 wide receiver on his own team. Plus, he’s not quite to the level of guys like Kansas City’s Tyreek Hill, Green Bay’s Davante Adams, or San Francisco’s Deebo Samuel, either. But the fact that he could very well be a WR1 on almost any other NFL team given both his production levels and skill set makes him an easy top-20 receiver in 2021, if not top 15.