Last month Derrick Henry’s draft stock shot up signifigantly by winning the Heisman Trophy. Before being invited to New York for the ceremony Henry was thought to be a third or fourth round pick according to most draft experts.
In 2014 Henry had to split carries with TJ Yeldon and only ran for 990 yards and 1l touchdowns. This year as the workhorse of the Bama backfield Henry exploded for 2061 yards and 25 TDs. Averaging 5.7 yards a carry no one in the SEC could stop him. In the Crimson Tide’s only loss Henry still took off for 127 yards and a touchdown. Georgia had no answer for him either two weeks later as Henry ran for 148 yards and a TD. Against Texas A&M in late October the Bama RB exploded for 236 and 2 touchdowns.
In fact Henry ran for over 200 yards against four SEC defenses. The one that put on the Heisman radar was the game against LSU and Leonard Fournette. Henry ran for 210 yards and 3 touchdowns that day at home while the Tide’s defense shut down Fournette holding him to 31 yards on 19 carries. Before the game the media had all but anointed the LSU back as the Heisman winner. But with Henry’s big day combined with Fournette’s struggle that day in Tuscaloosa a new front-runner in the Heisman race was crowned.
Henry only rushed for 75 yard in Bama’s win over Michigan State on New Year’s Eve but his two touchdowns against the Spartan’s stingy defense helped lead the Tide to a big win and advance to the Championship Game. Should Henry have a big game Monday night against Clemson’s defense we could see more draft experts mention him as a first round pick.
Two years ago the RB position hasn’t been a position of value for NFL franchises. In 2014 Bishop Sankey was the first one selected at pick #54 in the second round to the Titans. Last year two went in the first round, Todd Gurley at #10 to the Rams and Melvin Gordon at #15 to the Chargers.
Depending on how much a team values the running back position will determine whether or not Henry goes in the first 31 picks.
In our January 2016 NFL Mock Draft we predicted Henry would go late in the first round to Arizona. The Cardinals can’t stay healthy at running back and Henry would give Carson Palmer another weapon in the backfield next year. This is all predicated on Ezekiel Elliott going earlier in the draft. Once Elliott goes Henry is the next best running back. If Elliott doesn’t go in the first round it’s doubtful that Henry will.
Teams that need a running back are,
Pick 1. Tennessee
The Titans are regretting drafting Bishop Sankey in the second round. The running back from Washington hasn’t really panned out and Marcus Mariota was handing the ball off to an undrafted free agent from Western Kentucky at the end of the year who had won the starting job. Tennessee has the first pick and won’t be picking Henry with it.
Pick 4. Dallas
Jerry Jones needs to draft a running back to help fill the void DeMarco Murray left when he left for Philadelphia last year. The Cowboys used a running back by committee approach that didn’t work in 2015. Like Tennessee the Cowboys are picking at the top of the draft and won’t pick a back at #4.
Pick 10. Giants
Rashad Jennings was the leading rusher in New York but with 863 yards on the ground. Jennings only had two games with more than 100 yard rushing. Shane Vereen and Andrew Williams also chipped in but the Giants rushing attack wasn’t very potent this year. Picking at #10 the G-Men will probably go defense with their first pick.
Pick 18. Colts
Picking at #18 we could see a running back come off the board. We porjected that Ezekiel Elliott would go to Indy. Andrew Luck will need help at running back next year and Elliott is the best option at #18.
Pick 19. Bills
The Bills have LeSean McCoy. But Shady had some issues with staying healthy. We think that Buffalo will go in another direction in the draft but Henry would be an impact player for Rex Ryan.
Pick 22. Texans
Houston needs help on offense. We expect them to go grab a quarterback but a running back isn’t out of the question. Arian Foster can’t play forever. Alfred Blue and Chris Polk filled in nicely but neither will be going to the Pro Bowl anytime soon. Henry would likely be the third down back in Houston and split carries if he was drafted by the Texans. I just don’t see Bill O’Brien pulling the trigger in the first round.
Pick 30. Cardinals
With Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington having issues with staying healthy the Cardinals could pull the trigger on a running back in the first round.
It’s unfortunate that the Patriots don’t have a pick in round one. Henry would flourish in New England. The Patriots haven’t had a Pro Bowler at running back since Corey Dillon in 2004. It’s possible that the Crimson Tide running back could be around in the second round when the Patriots pick but I would imagine someone snags him by then.
The truth is, we don’t know where Henry will go. Jeff Fisher and the Rams stunned everyone last year by drafting Todd Gurley at #10. St. Louis had two good running backs in Tre Mason and Zac Stacy and Gurley was coming off a torn ACL. But Fisher said he was the best player in the draft. If someone really wants Henry they will go get him.