Combing through the small-school ranks to find unheralded players with big-time potential has always been a part of the draft process. Powerhouse programs do a good job of scouring the nation for talented high school recruits, but hidden gems always seem to slip through the cracks. And that doesn’t account for players who were unspectacular in high school yet blossom in college with some physical or mental maturity.
Coastal Carolina burst onto the scene with an undefeated season in 2020 and increased scrutiny has revealed several talented prospects.
Wide receiver Jaivon Heiligh has been one of Coastal’s best and most consistent offensive weapons over the last three years. He isn’t the biggest or flashiest receiver, but he has an NFL caliber skillset.
The New York Giants need an infusion of pass catching talent as a part of their offensive rebuild. Could Heiligh be one of those hidden gems for the Giants?
Prospect: Jaivon Heiligh (6)
Games Watched: vs. Troy (2020), vs. Louisiana (2020), vs. Kansas (2020), vs. Kansas (2021)
Weight: 200 pounds
Games Played: 45
Yards (YPC): 2,825 yards (14.8 per catch)
Total Touchdowns: 22
Games Played: 13
Yards (YPC): 1,128 yards (17.1 per catch)
Total Touchdowns: 7
Best: Length, route running, quickness, ball skills
Worst: Play strength, aggression
Projection: 3rd receiver playing the Flanker or Big Slot role in a spread offense
Jaivon Heiligh is a long, athletic, smooth, and dependable wide receiver prospect from Coastal Carolina University.
Heiligh has a good blend of size, length, and short-area quickness to play multiple receiver roles in an offense. Indeed, he was used all over the formation in CCU’s spread-option offense, playing the X, Flanker, and Slot roles.
Heiligh wastes little movement in his releases against off-man or zone coverage, accelerating into his stems almost immediately upon the snap of the ball. While CCU’s offense doesn’t ask Heiligh to run a wide variety of routes, he is a savvy and nuanced route runner. He does a good job making all of his vertical stems look the same and pressing them down the field, allowing him to convince DBs to flip their hips to defend the deep pass. Heiligh shows good timing in his route running, consistently waiting until the moment the CB commits to defending the deep pass to make his cut on curl, stick, or come-back routes. He has a particular instinct for finding, and settling, in zone coverage voids.
He does a good job of picking up and adjusting to the ball, making several awkward (low or behind him) catches in the tape viewed. Heiligh is a “hands” catcher who flashes the ability to expand his catch radius, extend, and pluck the ball out of the air. He does a good job of quickly tucking away and securing the ball once it’s in his hands. Heiligh is a surprisingly tough runner after the catch as well. His quickness and a good burst with the ball in his hands allow him to surprise defenders and pick up some decent chunks of yardage before defenders can rally to the ball. His long legs also allow him to eat up yardage in the open field.
Heiligh is a player who understands his role within the offense and is willing to do what is necessary. He puts in consistent effort, even when he is being used as a decoy or for misdirection. Heiligh does the dirty work of being a blocker for his teammates on the perimeter and doesn’t shy away from contact.
But while Heiligh is a willing blocker, he is limited by a relatively slight frame and a general lack of play strength. He can be bullied, or outright discarded, but cornerbacks and safeties on the perimeter. Likewise, he can struggle to sustain his blocks long enough to be truly effective. That lack of play strength also shows up when Heiligh has to deal with press – or even just tight – man coverage. He can struggle to separate from tight coverage and be bullied in contested catch situations. Heiligh could also stand to be more aggressive attacking the ball as a receiver. Too often he can simply wait for the ball to get to him and body-catch it, opening the door for a DB to jump the route and disrupt the catch.
Overall Grade: 6.6
Coastal Carolina wide receiver Jaivon Heiligh projects best as a third (or fourth) receiver in a spread offense. He would be best used as a flanker, or out of the slot, where he can get more free releases and make use of his burst off the line of scrimmage.
Heiligh’s blend of length, quickness, and long speed should allow him to be used at multiple levels, both for quick underneath passes, deep passes off of play-action against one-on-one coverage, and on wide receiver screens. Teams will want to work with him early on to expand his route tree and more fully make use of his route running savvy. Heiligh is a very intelligent route runner, and that could increase his value to teams who make heavy use of route combinations to scheme separation. His knack for finding voids in zone coverage could make Heiligh an appealing option as a possession receiver early in his career.
Over the long term, he would do well to add what muscle to his frame that he can without sacrificing his athleticism. A lack of play strength is the biggest knock on Heiligh’s game, and could hold him back against bigger and stronger corners at the NFL level. He has a relatively slender frame and it’s a question whether he can add muscle and strength without compromising his athleticism.