Who is this year’s Darius Slayton? It’s a popular question among a fantasy football community that doesn’t enjoy being fooled. Countless hours of research, number crunching and film grinding go into optimizing our teams and lineups. Yet players such as Slayton continue to rise from relative obscurity to post fantasy-relevant rookie seasons. Though these players should be celebrated, the focus immediately shifts to how we can avoid missing on that archetype in the future. It’s the reason we’re always looking for the “next” one of these preexisting archetypes that now exist. While Quez Watkins is a candidate to be this year’s Day 3 dark horse, John Hightower belongs in the conversation.
Hightower did track and field during his freshman year at Hinds Community College in Mississippi because he didn’t make the football team. Despite this, he finished his two-year stint there with 31 catches for 509 yards and seven touchdowns. He was a 3-star JUCO recruit in 2018, choosing Boise State over a number of Division 1 schools that made him offers. Finishing fourth at the 2016 NCJAA National Championships in the 400-meter hurdle, he was likely more recruited for his speed than anything else. All of this can rationalize away his lack of a Breakout Age on PlayerProfiler. Though he never recorded the aesthetically-pleasing 1,000-yard receiving season, he acquitted himself admirably given his circumstances. His Catch Rate may have dropped from 2018 to 2019, but the rest of his counting stats and efficiency metrics improved.
Check out John Hightower on PlayerProfiler’s Updated Rookie Rankings:
Hightower needed a big showing at the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine to enter the Day 3 conversation. It’s safe to say he delivered. Coming in at 6-2, 189-pounds, his 4.43 (86th-percentile among qualified wide receivers) 40-yard dash only netted him a 99.5 (67th-percentile) Speed Score. His 38.5-inch Vertical Jump and 122-inch Broad Jump combined to give him a well-above average 126.5 (78th-percentile) Burst Score. Along with his height, speed and 9 3/4-inch (77th-percentile) hands, this gives him a near-elite 10.19 (83rd-percentile) Catch Radius. This despite an 11.28 (44th-percentile) Agility Score, not great for a sub 200-pound receiver. That can be blamed on his 7.07 3-Cone Drill time, because his 4.21 20-Yard Shuttle ranked No. 4 of 25 recorded results among receivers. Given the dynamism he showed in the kick return game, it adds further credence to the notion that something was off with this year’s agility testing at Mobile.
It goes without question that Hightower has a long, uphill climb towards Day 3 draft pick status and subsequent fantasy football relevancy. Aside from Slayton, his other Best Comparable Players include Jeff Smith, Domenik Hixon, Tavarres King and Robby Anderson. These are taller, speedier, relatively unproductive deep threats with big Catch Radii, most with later breakouts and some with a decent amount of special teams experience. Though none come close to Hightower’s 48.6 Dynamic Score in that regard. He will need that special team ability to make it at the next level, because he’s not yet a well-rounded player. With only 66 career slot snaps, he’ll need to succeed as a low-BMI outside receiver. Still, the skills he’s shown us to this point are all translatable at the next level. He’s a locked-in Top 25 receiver prospect, and a potential late-round rookie draft steal.