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2016 NFL Draft: Derrick Henry the next Brandon Jacobs?

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Derrick Henry ran over Alabama's competition in the way to a national championship and a Heisman Trophy. Can his punishing style lift the Giants' offense?

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For the New York Giants, the running game was a question mark throughout the 2015 season. Part of the problem was an offensive line besieged by injury. Another was the "running back by rotation" philosophy that rotated backs each possession, waiting for one to seize control of the position.

Eventually, the offensive line stabilized (though hardly with an ideal lineup), and Rashad Jennings was given the lion's share of the carries. The result was a rushing attack that was finally consistently productive. Not fantastically so, but at least competently productive.

Jennings, however, is getting "up there" in age (his career arc means that while he is old for a running back, he doesn't have many carries). Behind Jennings, Shane Vereen appears best used as a change of pace and receiving back, Andre Williams has yet to truly pan out as a draft pick, Orleans Darkwa is a promising but unproven player.

Could the Giants look at Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry, who powered the Alabama offense (with a big assist from a dominant defense) to a national championship?

Measurables

Height: 6-foot-3

Weight: 247 pounds

Arm Length: 33 inches

Hand Size: 8 3/4 inches

40 Time: 4.53s

3-Cone: 7.20s

Short Shuttle: 4.38s

Vertical Jump: 37"

Broad Jump: 10'10"

Bench Press: 22 reps

Pros

  • Fantastic size. Very difficult to stop once he gets past the line of scrimmage, and needs to be gang tackled by anyone smaller than a defensive lineman.
  • Surprising speed and explosiveness. Is much faster than you'd think by looking at him and has a very powerful lower body.
  • Work Horse. Henry literally carried the Alabama offense to the national championship, carrying the ball 395 times in 2015.
  • Highly productive. Henry scored 28 rushing touchdowns, including 3 against Clemson in the National Championship. He ran for a SEC record 2,219 yards last season as well.

Cons

  • Height and weight make changing direction on the fly difficult. Henry struggles to sink his hips and cut at speed.
  • Not scheme diverse. Like most big running backs, Henry needs to be behind center to maximize his "runway".
  • High workload in 2015 could raise some questions about his durability in 2016.

Prospect Video

Big Board Rankings

Big Blue View - 42nd

Mocking The Draft - 34th

CBS - 41st

Draft Tek - 31st

Does He Fit With the Giants?

I'm going to go with a difficult "No". Honestly, I really want to like Derrick Henry, but that stems more from the similarities I see with Brandon Jacobs. Jacobs happens to be one of my favorite Giants from recent memory, and the similarities with the big guy are striking. Both are big, powerful, and surprisingly fast high cut runners who are almost impossible to stop in the open field. However, if defenses can get them running laterally, the play is basically over. However, both are also incredibly productive. Jacobs is the franchise leader in touchdowns, while Henry set SEC records for rushing.

But furthermore, I believe Henry is similar to another Giants' running back: Andre Williams. Both are fast in the open field, and punishing runners who thrive on volume.

And that, I think, is the problem with Henry. Like Williams, I just don't believe the Giants would use him to his fullest ability. Like Williams, Henry needs to be used from the "I" formation -- the Giants were primarily in the shotgun in 2015 -- and he gets more productive the more carries he gets. Williams has averaged 2.5 yards per carry on his first 10 carries in a game. When he gets more than that, his production jumps to an average of roughly 4.5 yards per carry on carries 11 and beyond. For Henry, roughly 30 percent of his "explosive" carries came in the fourth quarter after he wore defenses down.

Williams became a whipping boy for fans because the Giants didn't put him into position to succeed, and the same could happen to Henry.

Final Thoughts

Derrick Henry is an interesting NFL fit. He can play with any blocking scheme, but he needs an offense that primarily puts the running back behind the quarterback. However, with the proliferation of the spread offense, many teams are playing a lot of snaps in the shotgun. With the volume Henry needs to be effective, that potentially limits the number of teams for whom he really makes sense.