Alabama has had a strong run of talented backs at their school during this entire Nick Saban-era, but the thing that stands out is the lack of success of these backs in the NFL. Mark Ingram seems to have finally figured it out, but then you have a guy like Trent Richardson, a top-10 pick that has bounced around to four teams and hasn't come close to the promise he showed in Tuscaloosa. Well, once again the Crimson Tide have a big, talented running back that could be first round potential, but probably won't come off the board until the second round. Derrick Henry, a 6'3, 245 pound back out of Yulee, Florida, has the type of ability,size, and speed that NFL scouts are looking for.
Some media outlets have compared Henry to LeGarrette Blount, but that isn't giving Henry enough credit. Yes, Blount is talented, but he's nowhere near the athlete Henry is, and New England wouldn't pass on the bruising back just because they have Blount on the roster. Henry will most likely be off the board before the Patriots are up at 60 and 61, but if they decide that they want to target the big, bruising back, then they can use some of their many picks to trade up and get him.
Derrick Henry's high school numbers are absolutely insane; he rushed for 12,124 yards and 153 touchdowns in four years, a prolific amount of production, regardless of what league he may have played in. As a freshman, Henry ran for 2,465 and 26 touchdowns, career stats for anyone, let alone a freshman at a Florida high school. Henry followed up his freshman year with another explosion, rushing for 2,788 yards and 38 touchdowns. Henry was recognized for his excellent season, being named to the All-Coast Team as the top running back.
Henry rushed for 2,610 yards and 34 touchdowns as a junior, again being named First Team All-Coast. His senior year was the coup de grace: he ran for 4,261 yards and 55 touchdowns, making him the top prospect in his class and also greasing the wheels for his eventual enrollment at the University of Alabama, although he did originally commit to Georgia. Henry was also excellent is the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, where he rushed for 53 yards, one touchdown, and one two-point conversion.
The production continued when he arrived at Tuscaloosa, but he didn't get the huge amount of carries he received in high school. During his true freshman season of 2013, Henry rushed for 382 yards and three touchdowns, averaging 10.91 yards per carry. He also had one catch for 61 yards and a touchdown. That touchdown catch came in the Sugar Bowl, a game in which he also rushed 10 times for 100 yards and a touchdown. Henry got a lot more carries as a sophomore, but he was still backing up now-Jaguar T.J. Yeldon, so he didn't get the lion's share of the carries like he did in '15. He carried the ball 172 times for 990 yards and 11 touchdowns; he also had five catches for 133 yards and two touchdowns.
2015, which was Henry's junior season, was the opportunity Henry had been waiting on for two years. He carried the ball 395 times for 2,219 yards and 28 touchdowns; he only had 11 receptions for 91 yards, but it didn't matter because he was essentially unstoppable in the running game. Henry was named a unanimous AP First Team All-American, and the All SEC First Team.
He also collected his fair share of season-end awards, winning the Maxwell Award, the Doak Walker Award, the Walter Camp Award, and he capped it off by winning the Heisman Trophy following Alabama's win over Clemson in the National Championship Game. Henry ended up breaking Shaun Alexander's record for rushing yards at Alabama, finishing his career with 3.591 yards. It's fitting that Henry broke Alexander's record, considering Henry and Alexander are two of best high school running backs in history.
Henry has all the tools to become an excellent NFL running back, with size and speed being his best attributes. Henry runs physical without even trying; it's just the nature of the beast when you are a 6'3, 250 pound running back. Another one of Henry's traits that NFL teams will love is his fourth quarter production. A big part of running in the NFL is fourth quarter clock-killing, and when you have a big, powerful back like Henry, it makes it a lot easier to pile up first downs and put a team away without ever giving the ball back. He's also surprisingly nimble, leading the country in missed tackles forced with 60; he makes subtle movements that fast-approaching defenders can't adjust quickly enough to, and that is one of the reasons he breaks long runs.
Because of Henry's size and average foot quickness, he needs to get solid blocking up front and get to where he needs to go quickly or he'll get wrapped up in the backfield, but most big running backs are that way so this isn't something NFL coaches haven't seen in the past. Henry isn't the best receiver either, and there is a good chance that the team he plays for will be using him on first, second, short yardage, and goal line situations; don't expect to see Henry on the field for third-and-long, although as bad a receiver he is, he's a very good at blocking and picking up the blitz.
Whichever team selects Henry is going to be happy with their selection because this kid has all the attributes needed to succeed in the NFL, and he has the mental makeup to be as good as he wants to be. Things like poor hands and lateral quickness may hinder him slightly, but he's too talented a running back to not have success in the NFL.
High School Statistics Provided by Maxpreps.com/Derrick Henry
College Statistics Provided by CFB Stats.com
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