Heading into the 2017 NFL Draft, the Denver Broncos wanted to add speed and explosiveness to the offense, and they did just that. In the third round, Louisiana Tech star wideout Carlos Henderson was there and the Broncos selected him with the 82nd overall pick.
For the last two seasons, the Broncos have lacked an explosive, playmaking No. 3 receiver. Beyond Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, the Broncos have tried to get by with short-term bandaids and undrafted rookies in the slot.
That lack of production from inside the numbers has handicapped Denver's offense. However, for the first time since the Wes Welker hay-day, the Broncos have a viable threat to break open big plays from the slot and it comes in the form of their rookie third-rounder.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1776166-film-room-chad-kelly-vs-a... What exactly does the 5-foot-11, 199-pound Henderson bring to the table for the Broncos? Let's break down a few of Henderson's plays from Louisiana Tech's 58-44 loss to Western Kentucky in the Conference USA Championship Game.
Henderson starts off as the running back in the short-pistol, behind the quarterback. Louisiana ran this look often. On the Bulldogs first play from scrimmage, they’re trying to free Henderson up and get him the ball in space. It works. He goes in motion pre-snap and then jets out wide into the left flat.
The QB hits him on a simple swing pass and from there, we see Henderson’s full speed and ability to make guys miss in the open field. He takes it 80 yards before being dragged down from behind finally.
Analysis. This play perfectly encapsulates why the Broncos fell in love with Henderson. He’s an explosive player with the ability to make guys miss in the open field. And when he turns on the jets, watch out.
Two plays later, LA Tech is trying to capitalize on the redzone possession Henderson delivered to them. Henderson is isolated at the bottom of the screen, but he’s got four defenders — essentially — devoted to covering him. It’s no surprise, considering he ripped WKU for 8 receptions, 232 yards and 3 TDs in their matchup earlier in the season.
At the snap, Henderson is going to run a simple slant route. However, watch as the SAM LB drops into zone coverage, while the ILB fades into the throwing window Henderson is aiming for. The CB is playing outside technique, trying to take away the outside play and funnel Henderson inside to his help. It’s a bracket coverage and due to an accurate throw, Henderson had a chance to haul this in but the ILB gets a hand in his breadbasket to punch the ball loose. Incomplete.
Analysis: Henderson should have caught this pass but for a great play on the ball by the ILB. However, I show this play to highlight the respect Henderson commands from the opposition. They even had a safety over the top — just in case. Don't let this worry you, however. Henderson has good hands.
A couple of possessions later, the Bulldogs are in business on WKU’s 6-yard line. As we saw the last time LA Tech was in the redzone, Henderson is isolated at the bottom of the screen. WKU’s defense is still hyper-aware of Henderson and this time, rather than explode downhill on a vertical route, he’s going to stutter-step into a short screen.
He hauls in the pass and four Hilltoppers are in position to make the tackle well short of the goal-line. Henderson dances and jukes, before exploding downhill for the easy score.
Analysis: These are the type of plays we’ll see Broncos OC Mike McCoy design for Henderson. Just get him the ball in space, with short, safe throws and let him create. His instinct with ball in his hand is something special. Here you see why he led the nation in forced missed tackles.
LA Tech is behind by one score but looking to tie things up. They roll out trips right, with Henderson once again solo to the bottom of the screen. As usual, the Bulldogs are in the gun and the Hilltoppers rush four.
Henderson is going to run a nifty little dig route and inexplicably end up wide open. The magic, however, happens after the catch. Once the pass is hauled in, Henderson shucks his pursuit, reverses field and picks up another huge chunk of yardage for the Bulldog offense.
Analysis: Henderson is a one-man wrecking crew. Whether he’s lined up one-on-one, or bracketed with help underneath and over the top, he finds a way to get open. When he gets the ball in his hands, though, special things happen. Henderson finished this game with nine receptions for 202 yards (22.4 avg) and a touchdown — a small consolation to losing the game.
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Henderson can do so much for the Broncos offense. Opposing defenses are going to have their hands full.
The opposition will have to reckon with Thomas and Sanders, while still respecting what Henderson brings to the table. This upcoming season will be replete with mismatches.
The Broncos just have to hope they have a quarterback who can recognize these matchup opportunities and distribute the ball where it needs to go. Don't forget, Henderson also brings special teams value as a returner.
He was Conference USA's Offensive and Special Teams Player of the Year in 2016. He returned two kickoffs for a score. The Broncos will have a few good special teams options this year, with their second third-rounder Brendan Langley and their fifth-rounder Isaiah McKenzie both dangerous returnmen in their own right.
I can't wait to see what Mike McCoy cooks up for this offense in 2017.
Chad Jensen is the Publisher of Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @ChadNJensen.