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Rams convinced tight end Tyler Higbee worth the risk

LOS ANGELES -- In the days and weeks leading up to the 2016 NFL draft, no player might have hurt his draft stock more than new Los Angeles Rams tight end Tyler Higbee.

On April 10, Higbee was arrested by Bowling Green (Ky.) police on second-degree charges of assault and evading arrest as well as public intoxication following an altercation outside of a bar. The fight left the alleged victim in the hospital with brain hemorrhaging and a concussion. Higbee is still going through the legal process with Higbee intending to plead not guilty to the charges at his arraignment May 5, according to attorney Brian Lowder.

Before the events of that evening, Higbee was thought to be a second or third-round pick but he didn't go on Day 2. As it turned out, the Rams decided to roll the dice with a fourth-round pick, No. 110 overall.

Coach Jeff Fisher said general manager Les Snead, chief operating officer Kevin Demoff and director of security Steve Miller looked into the incident and Higbee's personality before making the selection.

"We did our research, obviously, as everybody does," Fisher said. "We’re really no different. I spoke with him this morning on the phone. Les and Kevin talked to his agent. We talked to a bunch of people. We got a great deal of information from Steve Miller from a resource standpoint. It’s an on-going issue, but we’re convinced that it’s going to be resolved. As far as going into specifics, we really can’t because it’s a legal issue. But, he wouldn’t be a Ram had we had some concerns that it was going to be a problem down the line.”

While that might turn out to be what happens, according to a police report from the Bowling Green Daily News, some of the details of the case raise even more questions with conflicting accounts from that night.

According to that report, Higbee told an officer that a man of "Middle Eastern descent was bothering" Higbee and his girlfriend and that when the altercation got physical, he acted in self-defense. One witness in the police report said the man, Nawaf Alsaleh, was arguing with two white males, one of whom was using racial slurs. Lowder said in a statement that the accusations of racial motivations for the fight are "very disturbing and completely false." In the statement, Lowder went on to say that "this was a situation which involved justifiable use of force to protect himself and his girlfriend from the physical force and imminent use of physical force by the other party involved."

Speaking to Los Angeles media after the Rams drafted him Saturday, Higbee didn't offer much with the case still pending.

“You know it’s an incident that I can’t let define me," Higbee said. "I’ve been trying to keep my mind focused and stay working.”

From the Rams' perspective, off-field risks haven't been all that rare under Fisher and Snead. In 2012, they rolled the dice on cornerback Janoris Jenkins and did the same the following year on linebacker Alec Ogletree. Both picks worked out with Jenkins earning a lucrative contract with the New York Giants and Ogletree becoming a key piece of the defense moving forward.

In Higbee's case, the Rams believe they're landing a tight end capable of adding a much-needed dimension to their passing game for rookie quarterback Jared Goff.

"Tyler missed some games due to injury over the last couple years, but we watched him play and he just has that sense of urgency and that competitive drive," Fisher said. "He’s a very physical player, dominant at times, at that level. We felt like he was going to create some matchup problems down the line."

In the meantime, Snead and the Rams are apparently chalking Higbee's issues up as immaturity.

“If I follow up, I’d say that when you go from college to become a professional, there is behavior to clean up and we expect that to happen," Snead said. "But, in this case, the research that we did, we did feel like he was a guy worth investing in for the long term. It’s a mistake; wish he had a do-over again.”