The three-day 2016 NFL Draft that begins Thursday night with the opening round and the event should be fun for Arkansas fans to watch.
Razorback head coach Bret Bielema expects a half-dozen of his players to be taken in this year’s draft and several others to get a chance to fulfill their dreams as well.
“I’d be surprised if we don’t have six drafted,” Bielema said after Saturday’s Red-White game. “I really would. My guess is that we’ll have three to five sign as free agents, too. People like the way our guys play.”
Those six likely to be drafted are tight end Hunter Henry, running backs Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams, offensive linemen Sebastian Tretola and Denver Kirkland and quarterback Brandon Allen.
The top pick from Arkansas is expected to be tight end Hunter Henry, who had 116 catches for 1,661 yards and nine touchdowns in his career at Arkansas, is regarded as the top tight end available in the draft.
Henry, who had 51 catches for 789 yards his junior season, is being projected to go in the latter half of the first round or the second round.
"You know it's the mid to late first round guys, but again all those teams that have an early pick in the second round are drooling a little bit. I think the amazing statistic, and you heard it right there again, to play his entire senior year without a drop,” Bielema said.
“And I keep telling these guys his best football, not even close to being there. He's only played true tight end like we play for three years. He's got a baby face, I swear he shaves once a month. I think his best football is by far in front of him. It will be a shocker whoever gets him.”
NFL.com analysts vary on Henry with him picked to go 27th by Lance Zierlein, 35th by Bucky Brooks and 49thby Charles Davis.
Henry makes it clear he would like to go among the first round selections on Thursday instead of the second and third round picks on Friday.
“I want to go in the first round for sure,” Henry said. on Wednesdays' Sports Talk With Bo Mattingly radio show. “It would be awesome. You have dreamed of that since you were a little kid. But I am confident that whatever happens, happens.
“I have done everything I can throughout this process. I don’t have one regret where I wish I could go back and do this or that.
“I nailed everything I feel like – the interview process, my pro day, at the combine I felt like I did fine, workouts, interview, just everything I have nailed and done the best of my ability so I am very confident and just sit back and relax.
“But I really definitely be anxious and just be ready to hear my name called and where I am going to be.”
Henry was a consensus first-team All-American selection, first-team All-SEC and was honored with the Mackey Award as the nation’s top tight end in 2015.
The NFL Network’s Mike Maycock likes what he sees out of Henry.
“By far, the premier tight end in the 2016 draft,” Maycock said. “Henry is a big body with the athleticism to get open, the hands to finish catches in traffic and the blocking ability to help give the running game the additional kick it might be missing on the edge. Henry should come in and be a very good starter.
Henry wisely doesn’t acknowledge a favorite team that he would like to go, too.
“When you go through this whole process and you are playing with the best of the best and that’s been your dream since you were a little kid, whatever team you play on, you are still playing in the NFL and so it really doesn’t matter because you still are getting to do what you love to do,” Henry said.
“I can’t wait for whatever team and I am going to fall in love with them and be a fan for my whole time there and probably after. So I am excited to see which city I land in.”
Henry, who had offers to Alabama, Florida State and a host of other schools, believes he made the right choice in coming to Arkansas
“Arkansas prepared me so much and put me in position to where I could be where I am at today,” Henry said. “God led me to Arkansas and it was really a God thing to be there."
“…It was such a blessing to be at Arkansas and if you are a tight end and you are a recruit and you get offered by Arkansas, I don’t get why you wouldn’t go for how they are going to use the tight ends.
“You are a big part of the offense and not just we are going to throw to you every once in a while. You are a focal point, you are a big emphasis in the offense to where they want to give you the ball to make plays. It is important to Arkansas and you are important to their success.”
The rest of the Arkansas players are expected to be taken Saturday when the NFL teams draft the fourth through seventh rounds.