During the Browns playoff game versus the Chiefs, Tony Romo said:
“Rashard Higgins is gifted in this offense.”
That’s right: gifted. Have a listen:
Let’s look at some stats. Keep in mind that during 2020 Odell Beckham, Jr. missed ten games due to injury. However, since Hig was benched much of the time, the two players had a similar number of targets: 43 for OBJ, and 52 for Hig. You might be thinking that Hig just had a good year. But Hig actually beats out OBJ on a number of career stats too.
1) 2020 Yards per Target
Higgins = 11.5 – NFL Rank = #2 – Mind-blowing, no?
Beckham = 7.4 – NFL Rank = #93 – If he had enough targets.
2) 2020 Catch Percentage
Higgins = 71.2% – 37 catches on 52 targets. NFL Rank = #77
Beckham = 53.5% – 23 catches on 43 targets. NFL Rank = #191
3) 2020 Yards per Catch
Higgins = 16.2 – NFL Rank = #8
Beckham = 13.9 – NFL Rank = #28 – If he had enough targets.
4) 2020 Yards per Route Run
Higgins = 2.05 – NFL Rank = #23
Beckham = 1.79 – NFL Rank = #42
Hig was only a hair behind Jarvis Landry’s 2.11.
Note: these numbers are from PFF.
5) 2020 Cost per Catch
Higgins = $24,595 – 37 catches.
Beckham = $608,696 – 23 catches.
So, OBJ is paid 24.7 times more per-catch than Hig. Of course, Hig will win any “cost per” comparison with OBJ because the Browns lavish money on OBJ and Hig is paid like a Chinese slave child at the iPhone factory. For 2020, Hig was paid $910,000 while OBJ was paid $14,000,000. Of course, OBJ was injured for much of the season, so let’s adjust for that.
OBJ is paid $14 million to play 16 games, which is $875,000 per game. He was injured very early during Game 7, so let’s say he played 6 games. So, 6 * 875,000 = $5,250,000. Dividing that by 23 catches comes to $228,261 per catch. That’s better, but not exactly a bargain.
However, Hig didn’t play every game either. He wasn’t injured, he was just kicked to the curb by “The Coach of the Year.” So, let’s adjust his number too. Hig is paid $910,000 to play 16 games, which is $56,875 per game. Hig only played in 12 regular season games, so for those games, he was paid $682,500. Dividing by 37 catches comes to $18,446 per catch.
If we divide these adjusted numbers, we get OBJ being paid 12.37 times more per-catch than Hig. Another way to think of it is that you could have 12 Higgins for the price of one OBJ. Obviously, the Browns should clone Hig and staff their entire receiving corp with them.
6) 2020 Passer Rating When Targeted (PFF)
Higgins = 126.1 – NFL Rank = #15
Beckham = 103.2 – NFL Rank = ???
7) 2020 Yards After Catch
Higgins = 2.08
Beckham = 2.04
It’s not a huge difference, but considering the hype around OBJ, it’s rather surprising, no? The fact is that OBJ is very easy to tackle, and is one of the very worst YAC guys in the NFL. See the chart here.
8) 2020 DVOA
Higgins = Ranks at #3
Beckham = Ranks at #40
Read this for an explanation of this metric.
9) Career Yards per Target
10) Career Catch Percentage
Higgins = 63.5%
Beckham = 61.0%
Even more, OBJ’s percentage has dropped since he joined the Browns. With the Giants, OBJ caught 62.7% of targets. With the Browns, he has only caught 55.1%. And it’s not Baker’s fault either because he has slightly better career stats than OBJ’s QB on the Giants, Eli Manning.
11) Career Yards per Catch
Higgins = 14.3
Beckham = 14.0
12) Career Drop Percentage
Higgins = 4.7%
Beckham = 9.2%
Note to OBJ: maybe try two hands?
Over his career, Higgins has less than one-quarter the volume that OBJ has. Would Hig be able to keep his lead over Beckham on these career metrics if HIg got more volume? Maybe. As shown above, in 2020, Hig averaged 16.2 yards on 37 catches. That’s an average that OBJ has never even approached. The best OBJ did was in 2015 when he averaged 15.1.
If OBJ’s sycophants in the sports media read this, they might reply: “Yes, but OBJ single-handedly won the Dallas game.” But here is Higgins “single-handedly” defeating the Buffalo Bills in 2019:
Of course, the 2019 Buffalo Bills (10-6) were a much better team than the 2020 Dallas Cowboys (6-10). OBJ beat up on a hapless Dallas defense that ranked #23 in the league. Meanwhile, Higgins out-smarted the Bills’ elite defense that ranked at #4 for the 2019 season.
I might also add that by discombobulating Baker in 2019, OBJ may have cost the Browns a Super Bowl, as he will likely do again during the 2021 season.
Hig was with the Browns for two years before Baker arrived. Hig’s stats jumped when Baker joined the team. Baker’s stats jump on those rare occasions when Hig is allowed to play. The two together are magic. If it were me, I’d start Higgins over OBJ without even thinking about it. But don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen. Nobody on the Browns has the balls to fly in the face of OBJ’s celebrity, and absorb the blow-back from such a decision.
Note: I don’t have a PFF account or a Football Outsiders account, so any of their numbers cited here are from authors who do have access.
Note: As I was writing this, John Middlekauff weighed-in on OBJ during his “3 and Out” podcast (March 9, 2021 – 54:10). One of his listeners asked him how much the Browns could get in a trade for OBJ, and Middlekauff responded:
“I think, for OBJ, with his contract, probably get a third-rounder. Coming off an ACL, he hasn’t been that productive, even though he did show signs of greatness last year…Personally, I used to love Odell Beckham, Jr., coming off an ACL, I’d probably be willing to trade a fourth-round pick. A little like Randy Moss at the Raiders. Maybe I get a bounce-back year or two from him, but I’d be pretty leery right now.”
Note: thanks to ad-injection, it is now impossible to cite podcast times. So, while my podcast has this quote at the 54:10 mark, yours may have it earlier or later.