Heisman winner Derrick Henry a fourth round pick?

December 12th, 2015 | Written by Rob Staton

Dan Hatman is a former scout with the Eagles, Jets, and Giants. He caused a minor stir on Twitter today after sharing these comments with the Florida Times Union about the projected stock of Heisman winner Derrick Henry:

I think in the Nos. 100-150 range — basically the fourth round. I’m a little biased because I don’t value running backs highly. There are too many guys who have been drafted in the sixth round or later — or not drafted at all — and been functional.

Gil Brandt then got involved and then… a typical Twitter set-to:

Hatman’s opinion is shared by many. I disagree with it fundamentally but understand the take. The perception is you can find productive running backs later in the draft. This is true. It’s also true that the NFL’s top three in rushing yards this year (Adrian Peterson, Doug Martin and Jonathan Stewart) were all first round picks. Five of the top six are actually first rounders (Todd Gurley, Chris Johnson). Seattle’s lynchpin (no pun intended) is also a former first round pick.

I wouldn’t a judge running back any differently to most other positions. If you believe a player can be a key impact player as a runner, a guy who can help you win games and if the grade matches up — there’s nothing wrong with an early pick. Gurley has shown in flashes his massive potential. The Vikings have no regrets over taking Peterson (and how Arizona wished they’d pulled the trigger in 2007). Sure, there’s going to be a Trent Richardson every now and again. Is that any different than Robert Griffin III flaring out? Or disappointing left tackle Jason Smith (remember him?) from 2009?

And while there have been star running backs drafted later on — the best cornerback on the NFL’s top-100 list from 2015 is a fifth round pick. The #3 player on the list was a quarterback taken in the sixth round. The second best receiver on the list (who really should’ve been the top ranked receiver) is a former sixth rounder. The four running backs in the top twenty were taken in the third, first, third and second round respectively.

Anyway, back to Henry…

I suspect Hatman saying he could be a fourth rounder is more a review of his overall stance on the running back position rather than the players actual stock. That said, I don’t think Henry will touch the first round.

He’s one of the more unique players you’ll ever see. Tall, long and massive — he’s listed at 6-3 and 242lbs. And yet it’s not power, trucking or tough yards you associate with him.

Henry’s best asset is his surprising ability to accelerate, explode through a crease and be a home-run hitter. He’s a great finisher in the open field capable of turning good runs into great runs. When he gets a head of steam he glides — and that’s when he’s really tough to stop. This season he had a 56-yard run against Wisconsin, a 55-yard run against Texas A&M and a 74-yarder against Mississippi State.

In short yardage situations he doesn’t project to be quite as productive. Henry’s length is actually an issue that takes away the benefit of his overall size. He offers a big target to hit and with long legs he’s easy to knock off balance. He’ll go down after a glancing blow. If you get to him before he’s into the second level, he can be ineffective. He’s not one for dragging defenders or getting an extra 2-3 yards with every run. He doesn’t always fall forward. He’s far from the power-back you’d expect at 242lbs. He’s more Shaun Alexander than Marshawn Lynch.

He also needs a lane. His vision and patience can be very good — but at that size he’s not a crazy cut-back runner who can plant and explode. Again, he’s better going through the gears and building up speed. And for that to happen he needs the space to move forward.

Henry might be an ideal fit for a team like Dallas that blocks pretty well and will offer opportunities to get into the second level. Zone blocking teams or teams (like Seattle) that prefer physical, competitive runners who get the tough yards aren’t likely to be lining up to draft him early.

I think he’ll go in round two, possibly to the Cowboys. It wouldn’t be a major shock though if he did just hang around a bit longer into the third.

Hatman isn’t the only one not enamoured with the idea of taking a running back early. It is a copycat league afterall. And while Gurley has had some success, Melvin Gordon has had a very disappointing first season in San Diego. At the same time undrafted free agent Thomas Rawls has been a major revelation and could yet make a case to be the offensive rookie of the year.

That could have some impact on the upcoming draft class, particularly with nobody as talented as Gurley eligible to declare (it’ll be a different story in 2017 when Leonard Fournette turns pro).

Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott has the best chance to go in the first frame. As one unnamed scout states: “Elliott can create on his own, (Henry) can’t.” A good team picking late in the first (Arizona?) could see the benefit in taking an impact player like Elliott very early. Even he might have to wait until the early stages of round two.

That could be good news for the Seahawks (and not because I think they’ll draft Elliott or Henry).

It seems almost inevitable that Marshawn Lynch will be moving on in the off-season. Jason La Canfora — a trusted and established source for Seahawks news — has suggested as much. The emergence of Rawls and Lynch’s massive $11.5m cap hit for 2016 makes it likely.

In theory the two players would create quite a two-headed monster for the Seahawks. Yet Lynch doesn’t strike you as the type of player to appreciate a new, lesser role in the closing stages of his career like Fred Jackson. As La Canfora notes, “He (Lynch) has been a challenging player to deal with at times.” It’s hard to imagine he’ll be any easier to handle if he’s only getting 10-12 carries a game. That situation might worsen if Rawls continues his prolific form and they find it harder to keep him off the field.

Is Lynch ever going to be effective in a committee approach? Surely his best quality is his ability to break tackles and wear down a defense over four quarters? He’s not really an impact player who will make big plays on a snap-count.

There was some feeling that a Lynch holdout in 2014 was somewhat inspired by quotes attributed to Darrell Bevell discussing a possible committee approach with Robert Turbin and Christine Michael. The Seahawks chose not to create a similar committee this year even during Rawls’ hot form. A week after he ran for 169 yards at Cincinnati and with Lynch back in the line-up he had just a single carry against Carolina. In the subsequent three games Rawls averaged four carries a week. Then Lynch had surgery and the rest is history.

The potential distraction caused by an unsatisfied Lynch, the enormous cap hit ($11.5m), the savings Seattle can make ($6.5m) and the dynamism and success of Rawls makes a possible parting of ways increasingly likely.

That would mean having to add another back at some point in the draft (or UDFA).

If the likes of Henry get pushed back, the next group of runners could also slide — providing great value in the middle rounds. Alex Collins has been a revelation for Arkansas — combining tough short-yardage runs with explosive grand slams. Utah’s Devontae Booker has his favourites and would add a complimentary slasher style to Rawls. UCLA’s Paul Perkins isn’t the biggest runner — but he’s incredibly tough to bring down, has a dynamite cut-back and could develop into a useful third-down specialist.

I’ve not been overly impressed with LA Tech’s Kenneth Dixon — although he has his admirers. Notre Dame’s converted wide out C.J. Prosise is considering his options. There’s also a whole host of other runners we’ve barely even looked at yet.

The Seahawks have shown they’re willing to consider drafting running backs in the middle section of the draft. Robert Turbin was a relatively early fourth round pick in 2012. They took Christine Michael in round two the following year. To be drafted that early by Seattle any runner is going to need to be as athletic as Michael. The third round compensatory selection they’re likely to receive in 2016 would be a similar slot to the range they drafted Turbin — who proved to be a solid if unspectacular #2 back. That could be the range where they ultimately target a value running mate for Rawls if Lynch does indeed move on in the off-season.

58 Responses to “Heisman winner Derrick Henry a fourth round pick?”

  1. Belgaron says:

    Agree that another RB is definitely on the shopping list. Henry would definitely be on the board, the 4th round would be a great value.

  2. Volume12 says:

    I’m in agreement that Henry is unique as they come. A back with his size, but not necessarily a powerful runner.

    Having said that, I don’t think he fits what Seattle looks for either.

    Again, I agree that he’s more than likely a 2nd rounder, 3rd at the worst.

    I brought up the ‘pocket of talent’ at the RB position looks to be in the 3rd-5th rounds, and if teams agree with this guy in regards to Henry, that might end being the case.

    I was high on Booker, then cooled on him, but he just seems ‘Seahawky.’ A bit like S. Carolina back RB Mike Davis last year. Doesn’t do any one thing exceptionally well, but he migh be the best pass catching back, gives it his all on every carrie, and his slashing style fits in a ZBS. With his age and coming off an injury, like Davis, I think he goes round 4, which would be good value.

    And then ND RB CJ Prosise. Built similarily to Freddy Jackson, rumored to be a freak athlete, highly competitive, great patience, and he’s another back that catches the ball extremely well.

    There’s a couple sleeper’s I got my eye on, and will soon bring them into discussion to see what we all think and if we like.

    • CHawk Talker Eric says:

      Booker on Day 3 seems like good value. But if either Prosise or Perkins are there, I’d prefer either and in that order.

      I get what you’re saying about Davis. And I liked him for SEA last year somewhere in the R4 range. But it seems to me that any of the names we’re tossing around are better prospects than he. And most should be available in the same range.

  3. cha says:

    What does everyone think about Chris Ivory as a potential RBBC partner with Rawls if/when Lynch goes?

    He’s 27 and a free agent after this year, and could be a nice option if he would come at the right price. No question he runs with a toughness the Hawks would find attractive, and the last couple years has added some catches to his game.

    • Rob Staton says:

      Ivory lurches between fantastic, physical and virtually unstoppable to ineffective and sometimes a liability. At his best he’s one of my favourite players in the NFL. His best seems to come in 4-5 week stretches only. Might be an option. Fair shout.

      • cha says:

        Does his run style fit the Hawks’ scheme in your opinion? His highlights always seem to be ‘one cut and go’ and ‘hit them before they hit you’ so I’d say yes but I’m not very versed in schemes and styles.

        He’s also split carries in NO&NYJ so I’m thinking attitude wise he should be OK with not being the bell cow feature back.

        Maybe landing with Cable, PC & Bevel is the way to unlock his full potential like it was for Lynch.

  4. CharlieTheUnicorn says:

    A few names that have popped up from time to time… that could be fits for Seattle later in the draft.
    1) JOSH FERGUSON, RB, ILLINOIS – Good versatility, displaying very good hands as a receiver and good ballskills. Has ability to block, set-up blocks. Perhaps a clone of Fred Jackson down the line.
    2) STORM WOODS, RB, ORST. – Some quotes I’ve seen about him include the following words; Soft hands, willing to block, jitterbug runner, with good vision…. a late round pick or perhaps a priority UDRFA target.

    Both of these guys fall into the CFB numbers don’t pop out at you category, but the other tangibles do seem “Seahawks”esk. With these types of talents in the draft, I agree with Dan Hatman, pick a RB late, not early.

  5. dave crockett says:

    My Derrick Henry comp is Chris Warren rather than Shaun Alexander. Warren was a guy whose length allowed him to be special in the open field based on his uncommonly long (for RBs) gait.

    • cha says:

      His size, yet going down with the first man to contact him reminds me of Eddie George in ways.

    • CharlieTheUnicorn says:

      Honestly, the Cowboys better draft him in the 3rd round. He would be outstanding in their scheme and running style. It is such an obvious fit, which means it won’t happen.

    • Attyla the Hawk says:

      I see him as exactly like Warren. Size and running style both eerily similar.

  6. CHawk Talker Eric says:

    Can’t really argue with Hatman. But I have a tough time thinking Henry will last that long in a League where Manziel went the first. That’s a bit specious I’m sure, but you know what I’m saying.

    Wait til the Combine when he tests out like a Roman god. I’m not saying his “NFR” will set records necessarily. But he’s a freak of nature for sure. Some team will find his athleticism irresistible.

  7. Jeff M. says:

    There are definitely first-round busts and late-round steals at every position, but RB does seem to be uniquely fungible. According to Football Outsiders’ numbers there’s a clear top-5 (the same in both DYAR and DVOA) this season: a UDFA (Rawls) and a 4th-rounder (Freeman) followed by three 2nd-rounders (Bell, McCoy, and Bernard). The year before there were four guys in the top-5 by both stats: a 3rd-rounder (Murray) and a 1st-rounder (Lynch) followed by two fourth-rounders (Charles and Miller).

    One thing to notice is that the 2nd-3rd-4th range (where the Seahawks have looked at RB before) seems to be a hotspot, but more importantly: no one was in the top-5 both years. Multiple of those guys changed teams, had a bad year after a good one (or vice versa), missed most of a season with injury, etc. The Seahawks swapped one top-2 RB for another (which seems pretty clear evidence some of the success is due to the team and to RW’s effect on the run game rather than just to the back himself) while the Eagles managed to get bad seasons out of two backs that were elite with another team.

    If a big-name guy is there in the 4th and the Seahawks see a fit/think he’s the best player on the board, it makes sense to get him, but if not we should be fine supplementing Rawls with another late-round/UDFA and a veteran FA pickup. The Patriots get strong contributions year after year from cheap RB pickups. This year it’s Blount and Lewis (both FA), the year before it was Gray and Vereen (FA and 2nd), the year before that it was Ridley and Bolden (3rd and FA).

  8. CC says:

    The other challenge for Henry is there are a lot of miles on those tires. And because of the way Alabama runs the ball you see guys like Ingram and Lacey ending up as average at best RBs in the NFL.

    Maybe there is another Rawls hanging around.

  9. AgentJ says:

    Just commenting so that when the Seahawks select Paul Perkins I can go back and say “see! I knew the Seahawks would draft Paul Perkins!”

  10. EranUngar says:

    Rob, i have a question to ask regarding a different topic:

    Assuming that we can not resign Okung and the FO is not ready to move Gilliam to LT or start a rookie at that possition – how about the following 2 FA candidates-

    PIT cap for 2016 is currently 145M for 41 players (i.e. already of of cap space) and 84M are already going to the offense. LT Kelvin Beachum is ending his contract and suffered an ACL tear. He is 26 y.o., he should be ready to sign a short 1-2 years contrct to prove his value and be out on the market before he is 28. Healthy, he was a great LT.

    BUF cap for 2016 is already 151M and they will need to downsize. LT Cordy Glenn is a FA after 2015.

    Those could be intresting replacments.

    I have also been looking at the Ravens with their 144.5M 2016 cap number. Kelechi Osemele, LG, is a FA after the season and he is a beast run blocker.

    Could we go that way?

    • Rob Staton says:

      It’s fair to consider but I suspect if they can’t keep Okung this is going to be almost certainly the direction they go in the draft. Whether that means taking the best tackle available in round one or trading back a bit if the value isn’t there. I’m not sure they can lose their most experienced and best OL and fit in a stop gap there if they don’t trust Gilliam at LT. They could even be aggressive in the draft if they needed to be. It’d be a massive hole.

      • EranUngar says:

        Thank you. I agree that if Okung does not sign it’ll be their first pick. I was just wondering if they may want to add a vet for backup since rookie LTs are regularly abused during their rookie year.

        If they can get Beachum for a low “after ACL” prove it contract it may be a prudent addition.

  11. Ukhawk says:

    Great article on Wilson’s evolution / performance making it clear he has been and can be elite while at the same time being very tough to play against:

    http://sportspressnw.com/2212832/2015/sherman-wilson-suddenly-very-tough-to-solve

    What’s clearer to me is that the success in the last few games signals the need to keep investing in and improving the OL; and not just organically via coaching/Cable. The big improvement we’ve seen has also come against some weaker defensive teams and today will be a bigger test as the Ravens DL remains good. Nevertheless if the Hawks are able to dominate even the better teams in both pass and run, imagine how much more effective it will make Wilson and the offense, how it will give teams even more fits than when they tried to defend just the run and run option and how it will take more pressure of the defence to not need to hold narrow leads, not be required to return after so many 3 & outs, not stay on the field for much of the game, etc.

    It all says to me that we should look to not only keep the line together but try to keep upgrading it. It may be the best way to get the most bang for buck in terms of making this team perennially competitive

    • Attyla the Hawk says:

      “What’s clearer to me is that the success in the last few games signals the need to keep investing in and improving the OL”

      I can’t deny this one bit. And while I’ve been a pretty staunch supporter of the notion that you can skimp on the OL and allocate draft/cap resources elsewhere — the proof of the pudding is in the eating. And in this regard, it’s impossible to divorce the reality that as soon as this OL turned the development corner, the offense as a whole seems to have immediately improved to an NFL elite level.

      Seattle clearly has the skill personnel in place to operate at an NFL best level. Having a solid, even good OL simply allows the talent we have to function at their peak. Which is pretty evident to be a very high level of performance.

  12. AlaskaHawk says:

    Since there isn’t a post for today’s game. I’m a little worried that Rawls and Chancellor had to leave the game. Rawls had a defender land on both ankles during a tackle. He walked off so I think he has flexible ankles. Rawls was 6 for 44 before leaving. I never saw chancellors injury but he was walking. Might just not be feeling well.

    Team isrunning well on the right side. Also showed wilsons stays over last 3 weeks, best QB in league with QBS of 148 and 11 touchdowns.

    Running with Harris now.

    • Trevor says:

      I know they are two guys we really need in the lineup. We really do need to find a quality back up for Kam in this years draft.

  13. Trevor says:

    Anyone know how serious the Rawls injury is? Looked like the dreaded high ankle sprain! Really hope not.

  14. Trevor says:

    When someone gets hurt the secondary communication really breaks down. Something that needs to be addressed this off season I think.

    I am certain we win today but the injuries and secondary play is a concern. Love Shead as a backup but we could use another CB in his draft as well depending on how Simon and Smith progress this off season.

    Russ really is playing at an elite level right now and the OL has had another good day so far. If Rawls dos not get hurt he was on his way to another 200yd day. Had him in my fantasy league which sucks. Really hope it is not a break or high ankle sprain.

  15. drewdawg11 says:

    Kam left and suddenly we saw more wide open receivers. Also, this has to be said, Shead can’t go up for the ball. What good is being tall if you can’t go over smaller receivers to get the ball? He’s awful in that regard.

    • Trevor says:

      When teams get some tape on him that weakness will be exposed like it has been today. He is a great backup but I hope Simon comes back healthy or Ty Smith steps up this off season.

      • AlaskaHawk says:

        I’m not sure what to think about Shead or even if he is fully healthy. He doesn’t look for the ball, instead he face guards and tries to rip the ball away. Some of our other defenders like Brandon Browner were like that. They do better if the receiver telegraphs the catch. Anyhow I think he is more useful then not.

  16. Trevor says:

    The drop off between Rawls and Harris is amazing. Shows how legit Rawls really is.

    • AlaskaHawk says:

      Well Harris doesn’t even know the plays yet. But then you would think it wouldn’t matter to a great running back. Of course her isn’t a great RB yet, we just traded for him (?)

      Getting a better performance from him in second half. Also Ravens defensive line is pretty stout.

      • cha says:

        Agree with Alaska. Harris needs a chance to get into this offense. He looks like he’s running with a fair amount of toughness.

  17. Forrest says:

    Guys…Baldwin now has 10 TDs this year…and Wilson has 14 TDs and zero INTs over the last 4 games…I can’t contain my man crush, those two are on fire!!! Extending Baldwin this off-season should be a priority…

    • AlaskaHawk says:

      Baldwin absorbed a huge hit from safety Webb on that last TD. Should have been a helmet to helmet call.

    • Trevor says:

      Baldwin has to be a Pro Bowler this year. I can’t wait to see when Deion interviews him about his pedestrian pro bowl selection.

      Also Tyler Locket is going to be a star. He is a Russel Wilson like 3rd round steal.

      Finally how about that OL which I was bashing calling the worst in the NFL at the halfway mark. Wow the are balling out as a unit and for my $ the most improved position group in the NFL.

      • AlaskaHawk says:

        That’s been the offensive line MO for 3 years now. Bad at start of season and start to look good by mid season and peak in playoffs. Hopefully the coaches will figure it out next year. The part that is most puzzling is that the line plays together all preseason.

  18. AlaskaHawk says:

    One question I have is why the Seahawks haven’t plaued Tukuafu. He should be pretty useful on these running plays. Presumably Seahawks will want to run more in the 4th quarter.

    Another thought is maybe they should pull Wilson now. I don’t trust the Ravens not to take some shots at him.

    Wow second great TD by Lockett. Baldwin and Lockett are going to be like the old Baldwin/ Tate combo.

  19. AlaskaHawk says:

    Carolina is sure looking good. 38 to 0

    • Trevor says:

      Atl has fallen apart amazing. Carolina looks so much like our 2013 team it is scary. Win the close ones against elite teams and crush the weak. Play making scrambler at QB, great D with a lock down CB who is a break out star at QB in Norman.

      Really think it is us or them representing the NFC and Ariz will be exposed in post season.

      • AlaskaHawk says:

        There is nothing to expose about Arizona. They are a solid team that is dependent on Carson Palmers health.

        • cha says:

          With Chris Johnson out and Ellington banged up they’re definitely not looking great in the run game.

          I’d also be interested to see how the pass defense plays going forward. Was Bridgewater shredding them for 350 yards just an aberration or was something exposed?

          • AlaskaHawk says:

            I’m not trying to take anything away from the Seahawks win when I say that the Vikings had a bad day against us on both sides of the ball. Bridgewater wasn’t accurate that day, and it showed in the score. Bridgewater was much more accurate for 3 quarters, and They played much better against Arizona, even though it seemed like both teams were delivering harder hits on receivers.

  20. Trevor says:

    Rawls is the games leading rusher and only played 5 min.

  21. Trevor says:

    Bennet and Shead also hurt. This is getting ugly.

  22. AlaskaHawk says:

    5 minutes left and they put Tavarus in.
    Wilson threw for 249 yards and 5 touchdowns.

  23. AlaskaHawk says:

    Yeeee Haaaa Seahawks win another game! Well played team. RW looks awesome.

  24. Trevor says:

    Russ looks like a $20 mil QB and the OL is balling out. Who would have dreamed that after week 8.

    Amazing turn around. Speaks volumes to the teams, Wilsons mental toughness and the coaching staff.

    If Rawls and Chancellor injuries are not too serious we are primed for a SB run.

    All our fears about what the offense would look like after Beast Mode are put to rest. At least so far!

    Great game by our offense. Perfectly played except for 3-4 drops.

  25. […] recently for some comments about Heisman winner Derrick Henry. If you missed what he said, you can catch up here. Hartman’s mention of a fourth round grade drew ire from Gil Brandt — and he touches on […]