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Rashard Higgins (WR, CLE) - 2019 Fantasy Football Sleeper


Heading into the 2019 season, a lot of hype surrounds the Cleveland Browns. Most of this hype revolves around second-year quarterback Baker Mayfield and his likely progression from a season ago, as well as the recent addition of Odell Beckham Jr. to the roster. The Browns finished 2018 with a record of 7-8-1, which was good for their best winning percentage since 2007 when they finished 10-6.

The 2019 Browns bring back a lot of their core offense from 2018 in the likes of Baker Mayfield, Jarvis Landry, Nick Chubb, and David Njoku. They said goodbye to former head coaches Gregg Williams and Hue Jackson, and running back Duke Johnson. The offense also has some new additions in the aforementioned Odell Beckham Jr and Kareem Hunt. Having a list of names like these on your offense certainly will bring about high expectations, but what about the role players in the offense?

Aside from the big names on this Cleveland offense, there are players like Rashard Higgins that had a sizeable impact in 2018 and should be counted on again in 2019. Higgins was third among wide receivers on the team in snaps, receptions, and yards trailing only Jarvis Landry and Antonio Callaway. He was also second on the team in receiving touchdowns with four. With the trade of Duke Johnson and loss of Antonio Callaway to a four-game suspension to start this season, Higgins finds himself moving up the pecking order in a potentially explosive offense.

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Higgins to Elevate Game in 2019

The basic stats tell us that Higgins was targeted 53 times, catching 39 of those targets for 572 yards and four touchdowns. Not a bad season by any means for a third-year receiver under a rookie quarterback, but not exactly a breakout season, either. From Week 13-17, Higgins hauled in 18 of those 39 receptions for 257 yards, which totaled almost half of his season's production. This shows that it is very possible Baker Mayfield began to get more comfortable with Higgins as the season went on. This is also evidenced by Higgins' first preseason game in which he caught five of six targets for 98 yards and a touchdown. The touchdown strike came on a 24-yard dime from Baker Mayfield.

Most of the advanced metrics Higgins put up last season do not immediately jump off the page, but he was very commendable in several areas. One spot where he does stand out is his catch rate. In 2018, Higgins hauled in a solid 72.2 percent of his targets, which placed him in the top 22 percent of the league. This number would have been much higher if not for a high drop rate, which was near the bottom third of the league. This has been an issue in the past (he also dropped seven balls in 2017), but it did improve last season. Continued improvement in 2019 will almost make this a non-factor.

Another area we could see improvement from Higgins in 2019 is in his air yards and target share. In 2018, Higgins averaged 44.5 air yards per game and was responsible for 11.2 percent of the Browns' air yards. This ranked him in the top 48 percent and 52 percent among the position, respectively.

Higgins garnered 9.8 percent of the target share, which was below the percentage Johnson (11.1) and Callaway (14.3) received a year ago. Even with the addition of Odell Beckham Jr., it is more than reasonable to see Higgins' target share increase with the loss of Johnson and Callaway. Callaway could be a threat to these targets upon his return after suspension, but Higgins will hopefully have engrained himself into the offense by that point. He is clearly on his way to doing that already given the results of his first preseason contest. Plus, Callaway has had a history of off-field problems that could also help keep Higgins on the field.

Currently, Higgins has an ADP of 269, which would put him in round 22 of deep drafts or off the draft board entirely in many formats. With the latest news on Callaway, this should only rise in the coming days and weeks, and he should certainly surpass that level of ADP with his performance. Look to take him as a final-round flier that should bring back exceptional value.

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