We're starting to get a feel for this week's 30 Visit guys to Valley Ranch. And Alabama running back Derrick Henry is a good place to start.
The Cowboys don't think Henry is a better player than Ezekiel Elliott from Ohio State, who is also in Dallas this week. And he's not nearly as shifty as UCLA's Paul Perkins, another RB visitor who has wiggle and Cowboys lineage, as he's the nephew of Dallas legend Don Perkins.
And nothing is locked in in regard to what Dallas will do at No. 4 and beyond. That's why, according to our research, likely names among the 30 Visitors include DBs Jalen Ramsey and Vernon Hargreaves, WR Laquon Treadwell, DLs Joey Bosa, DeForest Buckner, Shaq Lawson, Robert Nkemdiche and Sheldon Rankins and QBs Paxton Lynch, Jared Goff and Carson Wentz. (And maybe some more QBs, too. Also, we're checking on DE Noah Spence and on WR Braxton Miller).
Note that most of these guys are Round 1 candidates. We don't think that's the case for Henry. But there is nevertheless a lot to like here.
Draft Profile: Derrick Henry - Alabama
High School Career
Derrick Henry attended Yulee High School in Yulee, Florida, where he was a three-sport athlete in football, basketball and track. In his career, Henry rushed for 12,124 yards and 153 touchdowns, including a state record 4,261 yards and 55 touchdowns as a senior. His senior season, he averaged 327 yards per game en route a USA Today High School All-American honors and a U.S. Army All-American Bowl selection.
As a recruit, Henry was considered a top-10 running back talent and a four-star recruit by most recruiting services. Henry would eventually commit to the Alabama Crimson Tide over Georgia and Tennessee, as part of Alabama’s number one ranked recruiting class in 2013. Henry would join 3 other four-star running back talents in Tuscaloosa, eventually beating them out the long run.
At Alabama, Henry would rush the ball 36 times for 382 yards and three touchdowns as a freshman. Henry would have his coming out party in the Sugar Bowl against Oklahoma, where he rushed for 100 yards on and a touchdown on eight carries in the loss.
In his sophomore campaign, Henry would be the thunder to T.J. Yeldon’s lightning, rushing for 990 yards and 11 touchdowns on 172 carries. Henry would help lead an SEC championship and a birth in the first ever College Football Playoff, where the Tide would eventually fall to Ohio State.
In his junior and final season at Alabama, Henry would have historic times, rushing for an SEC record 2,219 yards and 28 touchdowns on 395 carries. Henry would become the workhorse for the Tide, averaging 26 carries a game on the season, including 146 carries over the last four games alone. Henry finished the season as an SEC champion, an SEC all first team selection, a unanimous first team All-American, and a winner of the Maxwell, Walter Camp, Doak Walker and Heisman trophies. Henry would ultimately lead Alabama to a national title victory over Clemson, rushing for 158 yards and three touchdowns on 36 carries in the 45-40 victory.
At 6’3” 245 pounds, Henry possesses enormous size for the running back position. His sheer size and strength gives him the ability to punish defenders at both the first and second level. Henry always seems to fall forward and gain the extra yards needed to convert short yardage situations.
Henry utilizes elite vision and patience behind his offensive line, waiting for lanes to develop before using his explosive speed to burst through holes for big gains. Once he’s in the open field, Henry is damn near impossible to catch.
Much like a 747 on a runway, Henry takes some time to get going, and needs space to get his momentum moving forward before taking off. This could spell trouble in the NFL where defenders close fast, especially considering Henry’s lack of shiftiness moving east and west.
Henry only caught 17 balls in three years at Alabama, so he needs work in the passing game, as he was routinely subbed out in passing situations. Also, while he's a willing blocker, that doesn't mean he's especially great at it.
Brandon Jacobs seems to be the popular pick here, and it’s easy to see why. Both players are abnormally large for their positions and both need room to build their momentum in the open field. Henry is a faster player than Jacobs, however, giving him perhaps a higher ceiling at the NFL level.
As long as Henry is placed into the right system and blocking scheme, he has a chance to be a very good player at the next level. Because of his style of play, he will not have the benefit of the doubt from most franchises when projecting him into their offense. Because of that, Henry projects as late first-/early second-round talent.
How he fits with the Cowboys?
Dallas wants an upgrade at the running back position, if it's the right upgrade, even with the signing of vet Alfred Morris. While Darren McFadden did an admirable job in a tough situation, it still remains an area that can be bolstered. The Cowboys want to run an offense that zone-blocking based, which is a great fit for Henry’s style of play, as evidence by other one-cut backs like DeMarco Murray’s success in the same scheme. (Of course, Elliott would be even better in it.)
If Henry is available in the second round, Dallas -- as much as we think they might focus on D-line or wide receiver there -- would have to be intrigued by the Heisman winner's ability and upside.