The Los Angeles Rams No. 2 tight end from last year, Lance Kendricks, was able to breathe a sigh of relief when starter Jared Cook was released. But now the question becomes, could he be in for a competition with rookie Tyler Higbee out of Western Kentucky?
Higbee, by all intensive purposes, is a talented pass-catching tight end, who could give Kendricks a run for his money.
The case for Kendricks
While it is an exciting time for the Rams with the move to Los Angeles, itís imperative to not throw a rookie who isnít ready into the fire right away. After all, keep in mind that Higbee is a fourth-round pick and needs to develop a bit. Kendricks is 28 years old now, so heís actually in his prime, and is likely ready to finally show everyone why the Rams drafted him years ago.
Kendricks has proven with his 4.5 40-yard dash speed that he can get up field and be a playmaker when needed. What has been the issue with Kendricks? Well, the fact the Rams signed Cook, for starters. Cook was one of the Ramsí top-two receiving targets in all three seasons that he was with the team. Kendricks had a very up-and-down rookie campaign, but the key was his sophomore season.
At that time in 2012, Kendricks was the No. 1 tight end, and had 42 catches for 519 yards and four touchdowns. It has been his best year to date by a mile, but since then, heís been forced to take a backseat, primarily being the second tight end and used mostly for his blocking.
The former Wisconsin Badger gives Jared Goff a veteran presence as a safety blanket. Which is big, as rookie quarterbacks tend to lean on tight ends when a play breaks down. Kendricksí speed alone could make him a great pairing with Goff, as he can turn a quick two-yard pass into a 40-yard gain.
Kendricks is a very talented player and there is a reason the Rams re-signed him to a four-year deal. There is also a reason the Rams cut ties with Cook as well.
The case for Higbee
Both Kendricks at 6-foot-3, 250 pounds and Higbee at 6-foot-4, 243 pounds are physical freaks. Higbee has the upside that stands out right away. He was in an offense at Western Kentucky that didnít feature him as much as some schools feature tight ends. He also didnít have a stellar quarterback either. With all due respect, think about going from Brandon Doughty to Jared Goff. Higbee will surely notice a jump in talent right off the bat.
Higbee can do everything needed and he can do it fairly well. His only weakness is the fact he does struggle running through blocks and is sluggish adjusting to assignments when blocking. Every prospect, however is going to have weaknesses, thatís what makes them rookies.
Realistically though, Higbee was not a day-three pick purely based off his skill set. He was honestly the second-best tight end in the draft in the eyes of many, behind only Hunter Henry. The reason Higbee fell so far, was due to an arrest he received not long before the draft. The arrest really impacted his draft stock, and was a big reason why he fell to the fourth round.
The Rams feel like they took a chance on a guy who could be a really special football player. I believe in that, and some others are starting to as well. Higbee looks similar to Cook on tape (except the whole catching part), and he could play a big role this season and instantly start developing serious chemistry with his fellow classmate.
When you put everything together, obviously both have strong arguments to start. However, I believe it would be most beneficial to have Kendricks start out during Goffís rookie season. A tight end duo of Kendricks and Higbee however, looks very nice.
Realistically, the best case scenario is Kendricks starting this year and possibly next, followed by Higbee coming in as the starter the year after. That could also potentially allow fellow 2016 draftee, Temarrick Hemingway to make a push for the No. 2 tight end job.
Ultimately the Rams drafted Higbee and Hemingway to put down a road map for their franchise quarterback in the years to come. Kendricks will start one or two seasons, Higbee will then fill out the role after Kendricksí contract is up and in steps Hemingway to back up Higbee.
At that point, assuming these players are able to live up to their raw potential, you could be looking at a nice dynamic duo with off-the-chart traits and ability. For now, though, Kendricks is the leader heading into training camp, and barring an injury, he should be considered the leader for the 2016 season.