With the National Football League Draft just days away, teams are scrambling to update their draft boards in order to find the best possible football talent and the most value in each round.
Johnnie Lee Higgins, cousin of current San Diego Chargers cornerback Quentin Jammer, is a very productive wide receiver who figures to be on every team's radar thanks to his pure speed and his very productive college career at the University of Texas-El Paso (UTEP) where he became one of the most prolific wideouts in Miners' history.
As one of the top recruits in the state of Texas, and after helping Sweeney High School earn two district titles under head coach Mike Treybig, Higgins decided to attend UTEP where he would redshirt his freshman year in 2002. The next year Higgins was involved slightly on offense with 25 catches for 362 yards and a rushing touchdown. His true breakout season with the team was in 2004 when he led his team in receptions with 34 for 700 yards and 10 touchdowns. His role on offense grew steadily during his junior season with 49 receptions for 837 yards and nine touchdowns. He topped off a great collegiate career as a senior by recording 82 receptions for 1,319 receiving yards and 13 receiving touchdowns to go with another two touchdowns on punt returns.
Higgins' outstanding production established him firmly within UTEP's record books, as he holds the Miners' all time marks in career receiving yards (3,218), career receiving touchdowns (32) and single-season receptions (82 in 2006). He also finished second all-time in career receptions (190), single-season yardage (1,319 in 2006) and is tied for third all-time for most career 100-plus-receiving-yard games (10).
The first thing that scouts will love about Higgins is his pure speed. Once considered as possibly the fastest player in this year's draft class, Higgins clocked a disappointing 4.48 second 40-yard dash at the Combine. Then he proceeded to record a 4.34-second and 4.39-second 40-yard dashes on his pro day.
Higgins also knows how to find separation, and he provides a true long-ball threat for passers thanks to his explosive burst. He has good ball skills and good body control, and he could be an asset from day one as a return specialist. This speedster knows what it's like to be the featured receiver on a pass-happy offense, and he welcomes this role.
The most obvious doubt that teams will have when looking at Higgins is his lack of ideal size. Most scouts are questioning whether Higgins, at just 6-foot, 180 pounds, will be able to withstand the punishment in the pros.
Higgins also will need to improve his strength to overcome bump-and-run pass coverages and avoid getting knocked off his routes. He is not the ideal wideout to run through the middle, so this lack of versatility might prevent him from ever being a true No. 1 target in the pros.
While Higgins' college production and speed cannot be ignored, his lack of ideal size won't be ignored either. As part of a deep class of wideouts, Higgins' draft value will certainly be aided by the fact that he has the skills to contribute right away on special teams. Having said this, we expect Higgins to be drafted most likely in the third round, but he could slide into the fourth round due to such a deep receiver class.
About Rafael Zamorano
Rafael Zamorano is an NFL columnist and editor at ESPNdeportes.com for Latin America. He has been a contributor at KFFL since 2006.
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