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Derrick Henry’s NFL Combine Proves He’s Von Miller at Running Back

Derrick Henry’s Fantasy Stock Profile

Talent Score

Nothing else in fantasy football turns me on more than a massive running back whose frame screams “feed-me-25-carries-a-game.” These horses are a dying breed in the committee plagued era. A tweet from NFL Network, however, suggested a new, true Clydsedale is ready to steamroll into the NFL, and obviously increased my blood flow:

Measurables

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  • Broad Jump: 130 inch (top performer)
  • 3 Cone Drill: 7.20 second
  • 20 Yd Shuttle: 4.38 second
  • 60 Yd Shuttle: 11.50 second (top performer)

Analysis 

Strengths

Size – You don’t need me to point out 6’3″, 247 pounds is absolutely massive for an NFL running back. Henry’s got the legitimate body and athleticism of 2015 Super Bowl MVP Von Miller, and can use it to both withstand and definitely deliver punishment. He’s perfectly built for his violent running style, and will wear down defenses without getting burnt out himself.

Look at this actual steamroller.

Speed — Continuing with the train theme, Henry’s 4.52 second 40 yard dash time is insanely impressive for his size. Rarely, if ever, can you find a mammoth with his long, top-end speed; once he’s on the second level and has a full head of steam, Henry can outrun corners and safeties who misjudge his burst with poor pursuit angles (and bury them 6 feet under if they do attempt contact).

Explosiveness / Power –  The predictive measurables (Broad Jump, Vertical) were tops among RBs at the Combine. The steamrolling game tape reflected this, with Henry plowing through defenders like they’re pieces of trash. Rarely does the truck get taken down for a loss, and he consistently falls forward for the extra yard or two as an ultimate finisher of his runs. Henry is truly special in this facet.

Agility — His fairly impressive cone drills and game tape suggest Henry can indeed plant and change direction very well, especially in space. In tighter gaps or in a blown blocking assignment, however, Henry’s average foot speed makes evading defenders tough. When your built like a wrecking ball, however, you don’t need to dodge anyone. He’s got plenty of wiggle to complement his elite combination of size, speed, and power. No concerns here.

Passing Game — While there’s not a ton of tape on Henry in this realm, given a lack of creative usage, the mammoth did consistently show well in the screen game, on swings, and in pass protection. Moreover, at Alabama’s Pro Day, Henry wowed scouts with a dazzling performance after stepping in and going through receiver drills when the event didn’t have enough wideouts.

To quote NFL.com: “The scouts on hand were ecstatic over how well the 2015 Heisman Trophy winner caught the ball. Henry stepped in and showed that he has real good route-running ability, and that is just another skill that he possesses that people didn’t realize that he was so good at. Henry really helped himself out at the pro day.”

 

Adding versatility / 3-down potential to this freakish package is surely stiffening scouts everywhere.

Intangibles – Henry has a reputation as a “gym rat,” and work ethic is crucial to separate from similar levels of athleticism across the NFL.  He’s consistently performed his best on the biggest stages: in a showdown with fellow Heisman Trophy contender Leonard Fournette, Henry essentially won with a 213 yard, 3 TD whooping.  In the national championship, he toted the rock an absurd 36 times for 167 yards and three scores. The man can throw a team on his back and carry them to victory like no other.

Weaknesses 

When considering Henry’s sheer ability, both by the numbers and by the tape, it’s truly difficult to find a gap. Sure, he might take a little bit longer to hit his top-gear or lack the shakes of a 200 pound satellite back.

At 247, 6’3″, with his measurables and  rushing style, he won’t need them. If Henry doesn’t pan out, it won’t be because of natural ability.

He’s not a flawless prospect, as we’ll see in his risk section. But on talent alone, Henry earns the perfect score alongside Ezekiel Elliot.

Talent Score = 10

Pro Talent Comparison– The size and forward-lean of a Legarrette Blount but with the tenacity, power, and open-field gear of Marshawn Lynch.

Risks

Henry’s greatest concerns have nothing to do with him as a talent, but rather risk-creating situations outside of his control. The most obvious is last season’s workload and the tread this may have put on his tires: an absolute force-feeding of 395 carries.

Yet, Henry ate all of these with little breakdown, looking spry, powerful and healthy across his final 36 carries in the National Championship. We have very minimal concern that the large load will impede Henry’s professional success or lead to a quick breakdown.

We are, however, slightly worried about Alabama’s offensive line. These maulers consistently plowed open massive holes for Henry to burst through. Creases will be tighter  in the NFL, regardless of where he lands, but Henry’s pro prospects would greatly benefit from playing behind a strong offensive line.

Risk Score = 7.5 

Overall Stock Score so far = 17.5  (Very strong prospect)

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Top 5  Landing Spots for Fantasy Value

While true Stock Scores can’t be fleshed out until the draft, here’s a few destinations that would give Henry the Coaching Scheme, Opportunity, and/or Surrounding Talent for a real shot at RB1 production:

  1. Dallas – Offensive line is the best in the NFL, and have consistently turned mediocre to poor talent into high-upside fantasy options. With Darren McFadden at the top of the depth chart, there’s no legit competition for carries. Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan remains committed to the run regardless of game flow. The return of Tony Romo and a healthy Dez Bryant should make scoring chances plentiful. I’d consider him late first, early second at latest should he land here.
  2. Philly –  JaCha, Spencer Ware, Charcandrick West, and even a thing called Kniles Davis have all held RB1 value at different times when the centerpiece of Doug Pederson’s brilliant rushing system. A monster like Henry could, at minimum, maintain the same level of performance, and would only have Ryan “Glass” Matthews to beat out.
  3. New England Patriots – The workload would be lighter than some spots given the committee with Dion Lewis, but the scoring chances would be as high in New England as anywhere in the league. He’d have legit 15+ TD upside as a Patriot.
  4. Cleveland – High workload upside is the main sell for Cleveland given only Isiah Crowell stands in his way for early down work. Additionally, Hue Jackson schemes brilliant power running systems, as seen with Jeremy Hill as a rookie or Darren McFadden during his prime in Oakland. Despite the loss of Alex Mack, this line is highly formidable. Offensive talent leaves a lot to be desired (assuming no Josh Gordon), but RGIII’s rushing upside should keep lanes a little wider.
  5. Colts – Similar to New England, the scoring chances would be plentiful assuming Luck stays healthy and the line is upgraded. His role would be less defined with Frank Gore still proving a complete back, but the veteran is 33 and the cliff has to be near.

Other sexy spots: Oakland, Miami

Summary – Not Your Average Plodder

To conclude, many draftniks have expressed concern Henry may prove little more than an early down plodder. I think this couldn’t be further than the truth.

I have an insatiable appetite for big backs. As such, I’ve owned every Zac Stacy, fat Eddie Lacy, and all the washed up Brandon Jacobs and Shonn Greene’s in-between. I know full well what makes up a true “plodder.” Henry has a gear none of these possess — not even Lacy or Jacobs in their prime.

Rather, as the title of this column suggests, he is Von Miller, just at RB. What more could you ask for than the athleticism of  Super Bowl 50’s MVP flattening defenders en route to a 1,200 yard, 10+ TD season?

Assuming he lands in one of the above spots, I’ll be riding this horse to the fantasy playoffs in countless leagues. Saddle up and do the same.