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Derrick Henry and Where to Pick Him on Day Two
Projecting college running backs to the NFL is one of the more difficult jobs scouts have. Consistently, undrafted players and late-round picks excel, while early round picks fail to live up to expectations. Aside from a few “can’t miss” guys like Todd Gurley, drafting running backs is an inexact science to say the least.
This year, Ezekiel Elliott is the universal top player at that position, and then things get murky, with no consensus on who is next. One player that is nearly always in the top three at running back is Alabama’s Derrick Henry. The Heisman trophy winner is huge, fast, and was an integral part of the Crimson Tide’s National Championship run in 2015. There’s certainly a lot to like with Henry, so where he gets drafted, and, more importantly, where he should get drafted, is up for debate.
Henry is a massive human being at around 6’3″ and nearly 250 pounds. He combines that size with great strength, making him extremely hard to bring down, and he regularly drags a defender or two for extra yardage. He seems to relish the contact. His size also belies some pretty good speed for a man that big. When he gets going, he builds momentum, and if he gets to the second level, he can outrun defenders to the endzone. Primarily an up-the-middle runner, he does a good job using blocks and shows good vision while navigating his way through the traffic.
Though Henry uses his size well, and is an excellent straight-line runner, he could struggle against defenses that jam up the middle. He does not move well laterally, and if defenses can force him to change direction, or make sharp cuts, his effectiveness will be dramatically reduced. NFL defenders will be much more effective at this than college defenders. He likely won’t have as big an advantage in terms of blockers as he had at Alabame either. His running style also lends itself to him taking a large number of hard hits, and while his frame can take a lot of abuse, it could eventually take a toll.
Where Does He Get Drafted
NFL scouts will find themselves enamored with Henry’s combination of size and speed. His ability to smash through defenses, and break game-changing runs, will likely land him in the top half of the second round.
Where Should He Get Drafted
There’s no doubting Henry is an NFL talent. However, his weaknesses will limit the number of big runs he can break. His lack of ability to move horizontally makes him a better value in the top half of round three.