In high school, Derrick Henry was the most prolific runner in Florida history, rushing for 12,124 career yards, a national high school record, and 153 career TDs, including 4,261 rushing yards his senior year, which was a Florida state record. He also starred in track and basketball, but as possibly the best running back in high school football history, he was a five-star recruit and the #1 athlete in the nation according to ESPN. Henry chose the University of Alabama, where he sat behind TJ Yeldon in his freshman year, and split carries with him during his sophomore year. Yeldon went to the Jaguars in the 2015 NFL Draft, and Henry got to carry the load for the Crimson Tide during his junior year. All he did was rush for an SEC record 2,219 yards and 28 TDs, winning the Heisman Trophy, Doak Walker Award, Walter Camp Award, and Maxwell Award in the process. He was the pivotal piece on offense for the Alabama team that won the 2016 College Football Playoff National Championship. With that laundry list of accolades under his belt, Henry decided to forgo his senior season and enter the 2016 NFL Draft.
|DOB||July 22, 1995||Bench (225 lbs.)||22|
|Height||6’3″||Vertical Jump||37.0 in.|
|Weight||247 lbs.||Broad Jump||130 in.|
|Arms||33″||20 Yard Shuttle||4.38s|
|Hands||8 3/4″||3 Cone Drill||7.20s|
|40 Yard Dash (10 yd. split)||4.54s (1.61s)||60 Yard Shuttle||11.50s|
|University of Alabama (2013-2015)|
|2015||395 att, 2,219 yards, 5.6 ypc, 28 TDs||10 rec, 97 yards, 9.7 ypc, 0 TDs|
|2014||172 att, 990 yards, 5.8 ypc, 11 TDs||5 rec, 113 yards, 22.6 ypc, 2 TDs|
|2013||36 att, 382 yards, 10.6 ypc, 3 TDs||1 rec, 61 yards, 61 ypc, 1 TDs|
- Decisive runner who consistently looks to run North-South
- Huge. Massive size allows him to overpower defenders
- Sometimes his height prevents him from getting a strong pad level
- Consistently fights for yardage after contact
- Severely lacking lateral quickness to avoid defenders in backfield
- Needs room to build up speed, fails to explode out of cuts but gains momentum well when he has space
- Has a great top speed to accelerate to second level and finish long runs
- Solid vision to find spots in line and understands blocking schemes
- Shows great balance to get through leg tackles
- Used almost exclusively on checkdowns and screens; showed decent hands but doesn’t add much after the catch
- Occasionally struggles to identify rushers in pass protection
- When he does identify the correct rusher and lock on, his size allows him to dominate in pass protection
This article has multiple pages, examining different traits that Henry displays, and discussing whether or not those traits bode well for his transition to the NFL game. The first three pages deal with his running traits, while the last page covers his work in the passing game and also includes projections for Henry in the NFL.
In order to watch Henry, I went to Draft Breakdown, which has eight of his college games.
Derrick Henry is built like a battering ram, and Alabama used him as one. He averaged over 26 carries a game in 2015, and was the key component to the Alabama offense beating opponents into submission. Henry was tasked with running up north-south, which suits his style perfectly. He lacks the ability to make dynamic moves, relying on his speed and size to run over and past defenders rather than running around them.
However, while Henry lacks cutting ability, he still shows nuance as a runner, understanding how to create holes and set up defenders for failure. He has moments of inconsistency, particularly with his pad level, and struggles to start back up again when his feet are stopped, but his size makes him downright frightening for defenders in his path. Those traits are covered in depth below:
While watching Derrick Henry’s tape, his desire to run downhill quickly becomes apparent. Decisiveness as a runner is a theme, and Henry often looks for the fastest way to begin earning positive yardage. However, that doesn’t mean he runs in a straight line to the spot he’s told. Instead, he displays an understanding of how to set up blocks for success that will bode well for him in the NFL. At the same time, he avoids trying to outstretch his physical abilities, decisively heads towards the line of scrimmage instead of dancing in the backfield. A look at the plays below reveals those traits:
The first play is a power run to the left, with the guard pulling. It’s a gap blocking play, so Henry’s job is to hit the hole quickly, which he does, but he shows that he’s looking beyond the point of attack by the moves he makes at the line. Jonathan Bullard, a very good prospect in his own right, has diagnosed the play well, and moves over into the gap. Henry is able to recognize this and process it fast enough that he cuts across Bullard, preventing the defender from hitting him head on in the hole. This allow Henry to pick up a good chunk after contact, keeping the offense on schedule.
The second play shows that Henry understands how to set up his blockers for success and create holes. He presses a hole up the A gap, and actually draws two defenders, the LB and DT, into that hole before cutting to the B gap. The RG on the play does a good job of initially covering up the defender, and then Henry baits him to the inside before cutting around him. He finishes off the play with good pad level, to pick up a first down and nearly score.
On the third play, Henry creates his own yardage while sticking to the play structure. The intended gap is initially well defended, as the LB has the outside leverage to meet Henry in the hole, but instead of attacking immediately, Henry moves toward the inside, pauses, and forces the defender into the body of another offensive lineman before Henry bounces it out past the LB. This kind of manipulation of second level defenders is a trait that will serve Henry really well as a runner, even if his blocking isn’t perfect at the NFL level.
When Henry does have good blocking at the point of attack, he doesn’t hesitate to take advantage, as shown in the fourth play, where he attacks decisively and hits the hole before the defender breaks the seal on the edge. He also shows strong second level vision, cutting back inside his OL’s block on the second level.
The final play shows Henry on a relatively rare run to the edge, but also shows his desire to get downhill as soon as possible. While his initial cut upfield is walled off by the defense, he presses that, which opens up room a bit further outside. After cutting further outside, he turns it uphill immediately with the intent of preventing a negative play.