A pair of the SEC’s best offensive prospects — Ole Miss’ Laremy Tunsil and Laquon Treadwell — are shoe-ins to go on the first day of the NFL draft, but what about Heisman Trophy-winning Alabama running back Derrick Henry?
There’s a strong chance he will be the SEC’s first running back off the board, and analysts appear set on labeling him a second or third-round pick.
NFL Network’s Mike Mayock said there’s a clear area where Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott has an edge on Henry, who ran circles around Elliott on the stat sheet and in the trophy case this past season.
“I think the biggest difference is lateral quickness and burst,” Mayock said Tuesday afternoon (via NJ.com‘s Randy Miller). “Ezekiel Elliott is just about as fast sideways as he is forward and he’s probably going to run 4.45 at 225 pounds. So he’s got great speed. But his lateral acceleration, burst, lower body toughness … all of those things add up to me. First round.
“When you look at Henry, he’s a tall, high-cut, long-legged back, which is atypical. And those backs struggle in the NFL, just because there’s a lot more vertical mass to contain that. Having said that, I really like the kid. When I say he’s an early second-round pick, that means a lot to me.”
Mayock added that he thinks Henry could carry the ball 25 times a game.
This week’s scouting combine in Indianapolis will give the record-setting back a chance to prove he has the “quickness and burst” apparently lacking in his game, as well as address other perceived weaknesses.
“It’s hard to look at what he’s done this year and think there’s anything more that he can do,” ESPN’s Todd McShay said in December. “The guy’s been an absolute workhorse. Love his competitiveness. Just carrying that football team when it needed to be carried. Everyone in the gym knew he was getting the ball, and he still was able to churn up yards.”