This series will examine all draft prospects that have official invites to Valley Ranch. Previous research has shown these players are the most likely to be drafted by the Cowboys. For more explanation, read the opening paragraphs here.
Name: Derrick Henry
Position: Running Back
School: University of Alabama
Height: 6’2 5/8"
Weight: 247 LBs
Heisman Memorial Trophy Winner
Doak Walker Award Winner
Maxwell Award Winner
Walter Camp Player of the Year
Unanimous First-Team All-American
First team All SEC (Coaches and Media)
SEC Offensive Player of the Year
pSparq Score: 132.7 Z-Score: 0.9 NFL Percentile: 82.0
pSparq is an approximation of the "Sparq Score" metric invented by NIKE (with the help of former USC and current Seattle Seahawks Head Coach, Pete Carroll), designed as a way to standardize athletic testing of High School athletes and interpret their athleticism with a sport specific formula. By standardizing a single metric composed of multiple athletic test results, it becomes possible to compare players to the athletic testing scores of players in past draft classes, and to provide context as to how a player will compare athletically to his peers at the NFL level. The Z-Score represents the number of standard deviations (sigma) above or below the mean at a particular position that player falls, 84% of players will have a Z-score of less than 1, 98% will have a Z-score of less than 2, and 99.87% will fall below a Z-Score of 3. There are currently a total of four players who are "3 Sigma Athletes" in the NFL, JJ Watt, Byron Jones, Evan Mathis, and Lane Johnson. For more on pSparq,(and the man behind the math Zach Whitman) check out 3sigmaathlete.com
Measurables vs others at his position:
Note: This spider graph provides a visual representation of a players’ measurable traits, and combine results. The filled in area of the chart, as well as the number in the light grey circle represents the percentile among the player’s peers by position. A score of 85 here represents that out of every 100 players at his position, the player has a better result in that test than 85 of those 100.
Games Studied: Ole Miss, Florida, Auburn, Clemson
Henry is a big, tall back who runs with long strides and has tremendous breakaway ability for a man his size to finish long runs for six points. He played in a system that featured a lot of zone runs, with a particular emphasis on inside zone, with some outside zone included along with gap, power and sweep runs as well. Henry’s best trait as a runner is that he doesn’t dance with the ball in his hands, he takes one cut, squares his shoulders to the line of scrimmage and gets downhill. Has quality vision that allows him to process information and make his cuts quickly and decisively, but also possesses the patience to pick small alleys when things aren’t blocked clean to pick up a few "dirty" yards. It will take him about two full strides to get to full speed, and when he gets those two strides before reaching the line of scrimmage look out, because he’s going to explode through the hole and be on your linebackers and defensive backs in a hurry. He is extremely effective at the second level because of his speed and ability to run through tacklers who come at him above his waist. Runs with power, fights for the extra yard and always falls forward through contact. When a defender gets to him before he gets his two strides he can have trouble making that guy miss or running through the tackle, especially if the guy tackles him low. Has a strong stiff arm, and makes solid jump cuts for a guy who isn’t a great lateral athlete. Seems to stay strong through the course of a game even with high workload and finished the Auburn game (46 carries) with a 25-yard touchdown to put the Tigers away. His long speed repeatedly ruins defensive pursuit angles resulting in more missed tackles than you’d expect, and plenty of big runs.
Henry wasn’t used a great deal in the passing game, but on his opportunities showed the ability to catch the ball with his hands and get up field. He’s not a loose type of space player that will make a lot of guys miss with the ball in his hands but when he can get two steps going downhill after the catch he can be a tough guy for defensive backs to bring down in the open field. Was only asked to pass protect a few times a game, and did the job nicely in his opportunities. His size, length, and upper body strength serves him well in this area as he is able to take on a charging linebacker and absorb the impact.
Not every team in the NFL will be able to put Derrick Henry in position to reach his full potential at the NFL level. Henry isn’t the type of runner who will fix a running game for a team with offensive line problems, but he is perfectly suited to maximize the impact of a quality offensive line like the Cowboys have. There has been a lot of discussion about the best scheme for him at the NFL level, with some saying he should be in a gap/man scheme only, and other saying he’s a perfect zone runner. While he’s not a great lateral athlete, he has enough change of direction ability and has the vision necessary to play in the zone based scheme the Cowboys run. I’ve seen some compare him to Darren McFadden as a runner, but McFadden doesn’t possess Henry’s vision which is what allows Henry to make such decisive cuts and get through to the second level so quickly. The idea of being ahead of a team by four points with seven minutes to go, and handing the ball to Henry over and over down the field, wearing down a defense, and punishing defensive backs who come up to tackle him is very intriguing. He would be the finisher that could carry the ball 10-plus times on one possession, all the way down the field, stealing the opponents’ soul, and extending the lead to 11 with under two minutes to go, in the process, and that is very valuable to a team that wants to play bully ball.