I must admit that when I first heard that he was considering the draft I, too, thought he was crazy. Then I started to think about it some more and suddenly his decision was not as foolish as it first seemed and it could wind up being a calculated risk that could pay off.
Here are some reasons the move may pay off big time for Henry.
If Henry is invited to the NFL Draft Combine he will wow the scouts. Henry, if he's anything, is a physical specimen. He'll be able to go to the Indianapolis combine and put up huge numbers. It is not out of the realm of possibility that Henry could run a 4.3 40, put up 30 reps at 225 and dominate a lot of the individual drills. The Combine allows players to show off their measurables. It does not necessarily let players show off the intangibles. In the case of Chris Henry that could be a good thing.
Henry is a bright, fairly well-spoken young man. There is no reason he should not thrive in the interview and testing portion of the Combine as well. A lot of teams put a lot of stock in the intelligence and psychological tests that they give at the Combine and Henry should do well on both. The NFL puts less stock in measurables and potential than say the NBA does, but players with "upside" can sneak their way into the draft or, at the very least, climb in the draft. San Francisco tight end Vernon Davis is a prime example of this. Before the combine he was seen as a very good prospect, but after wowing scouts in Indy he wound up being the sixth overall pick in the NFL draft.
While Henry is not destined for the first round, his raw athleticism should impress and could land him in the draft.
Mike Bell has been one of the best stories in the NFL this year. The undrafted rookie has been a key contributor for Denver this season. Bell had a solid career at Arizona, but he was hardly a standout. Despite leading the Wildcats in rushing for four seasons, Bell never surpassed 1,000 yards. He escaped the reputation of being injury and fumble prone and made the most of his free agent deal he signed with the Broncos.
Henry has to bank on other clubs taking notice. Just as Bell was seen as a good back running for bad teams, Henry is hoping that his poor start to 2006 will be seen as a product of a young, inexperienced offensive line and not his own failings as a running back.
The fact that undrafted players such as Bell and Willie Parker have performed well, and in many cases quickly eclipsed what they did in college, has to be something Henry and his people hope can be a marketing point.
Henry was at his best over the final four games of the season. He rushed for 380 of his 581 yards in the final 1/3 of the season and scored seven of his eight touchdowns in the same stretch.
Henry's agent will be quick to point out that once the Wildcat line rounded into shape and Henry was re-established as the starter, his numbers really took off.
In the NBA many college seniors get passed over because scouts have seen so much tape that they know most, if not, all of an older player's weaknesses. Younger players, have less visual evidence and are therefore a bit of a mystery. The NBA seems to value upside and potential far more than they do actual performance.
The NFL does this less than the NBA, but the mystery factor still comes into play. Teams may take a chance on Henry because they still don't know everything about Henry. One fear Henry could have is that if he came back for his senior season and it did not go as well as he had hoped, that any momentum he could have with his great end to 2006 and freak physical attributes could be wasted.
Although the spread is not a gimmick offense, Henry may not want to take a chance. All indications are that the Cats will mix the run and pass, but with the reputation Sonny Dykes has coming from Texas Tech, the specter of a pass happy offense is there.
If, and it is a big if, the Wildcats go with an offense with the same run-pass ratio that the Red Raiders have, then Henry could have trouble showcasing his running skills. Although the more balanced BYU version of the spread seems to be more in line with what the Wildcats want to do, Henry may not want to take that chance.
Henry may just want out of Arizona. He has gone on record as saying that he was not happy to lose his starting role early in the year. Things got so bad that he was suspended for the Stephen F. Austin game.
In the interviews he gave after announcing his intentions Henry made no bones about the fact that he was not pleased with the way things transpired in the early part of the season.
Will He Be Drafted?
If Henry can do at the Combine what I think he can do at the Combine, then someone will take a flyer on him. He'd best be served by going to a winning team with an established, older running back. A team that can afford to use a draft pick on a project and has a player to mentor him.
I have no idea whether or not Henry can be an NFL running back, but he has so many skills and is so intriguing that I'd be shocked if someone does not take a look at him. What may be seen as a surprising move by many, may actually be a very shrewd decision that pays off.