How Flippin' Good Is Johnnie Lee Higgins? We Will Soon Find Out

TimCorrespondent IJune 18, 2009

DENVER - NOVEMBER 23:  Johnnie Lee Higgins #15 of the Oakland Raiders celebrates with a back flip in front of referee Jeff Triplette after his 89 yard punt return for a second quarter touchdown against the Denver Broncos during week 12 NFL action at Invesco Field at Mile High on November 23, 2008 in Denver, Colorado. The beckflip earned a 15 yard penalty as the Raiders defeated the Broncos 31-10.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

I recently wrote an article about third year wide receivers that were set to break out as fantasy options. 

Raider nation spoke up, loud and clear, and Johnnie Lee Higgins took a large portion of the votes. I figured it was time to look a little deeper.

What will propel Higgins in his breakout season? I will look at some of the offseason changes and how they affect Higgins’ chances of success.


Higgins is moving into his third year in the NFL. The third year is supposed to be a big one for wide receivers. The game is said to start slowing down, and everything becomes easier. History has shown if a receiver is going to break out, it will often be in the third year.

Things should slow down for him this year. He was the team’s leading wideout last year, and I expect him to improve across the board as a result.

Experience will do nothing but help Higgins become more successful.

Complementary Pass Catchers

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This looks like a tricky one to me. Up until the draft, I was thinking good things about the Oakland passing game. I figured Michael Crabtree would really help Higgins. Crabtree could be the possession guy, while Higgins would be the speed guy.

Come draft day, that all changed. The Raiders picked Darrius Heyward-Bey. He is another speed guy.

So, how will this affect Higgins?

I don’t think it will.  

Fortunately for Higgins, the Oakland receiving corps really lacks depth, and even if Heyward-Bey pushes for a starting role, I think Higgins will beat him out. Plus, based on what I’ve seen in the past, it wouldn’t be out of the question for the Raiders to start two speed guys.

Another thing that makes that idea so much easier is Zach Miller. Last year, Miller developed into one of the best receiving tight ends in the league. Having a consistent possession guy like that in the middle could allow Oakland to put two speed guys on the outside.

Despite only starting three games last year, Higgins led the team in catches. If he can indeed land himself a starting role, Higgins’ numbers will increase drastically.

The Quarterback Situation

The Oakland quarterback situation is probably the most influential factor in Higgins’ success. So, how is the Oakland quarterback situation compared to last year? It has to be better. Sorry to say, it can’t get much worse.

JaMarcus Russell should be better. He has to take strides at this point, and if he doesn’t, there will be a very capable Jeff Garcia waiting in the wings.                           

It doesn't matter if it's an improved Russell or if it's Garcia—Oakland’s quarterback play will be better. This too will help Higgins.


We will have to pay a lot of attention during camp, but I think Higgins has a good chance to find himself a starting spot. If he does, he will once again lead all Oakland wideouts in yardage, but his numbers will greatly increase. Assuming he starts...

Expect 800-plus yards and three or four touchdowns.

Will Johnnie Lee Higgins once again lead the Raiders in yards? Will he play second fiddle to Heyward-Bey, or will he be coming off the bench? You've heard my thoughts—what do you think?

Click here to view my initial article on wide receiver candidates for a breakout third year.

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