An interesting example of how college excellence doesn’t always excite NFL scouts is Derrick Henry, the Heisman winner and champion out of Alabama, who is getting very little interest from teams as we get closer to the draft, with the Dallas Cowboys, Seattle Seahawks and Carolina Panthers bringing him in for visits out of curiosity, and not genuine interest.
So why isn’t someone who won the Heisman last season while rushing for 2219 yards and 28 touchdowns getting more attention? It has to do with one thing: His workload. He had 406 carries last season, including 146 in the final four games. Teams don’t like that, even if it shows Henry can take a lot of punishment and burden. By the time he gets to the NFL, he may have too much wear & tear on him just from that finish alone.
And there’s also something about dominating in college compared to doing it in the NFL. Yes, Henry is one of the biggest backs you’ll ever set eyes on. He’s 6’3, weighing 234 lbs. But he does one thing – run and never slow down. He isn’t lightning fast, he’s just very difficult to tackle. However, he has terrible hands and brings nothing as a receiver, and playing behind the Alabama offensive line is very different compared to doing it in the NFL.
He doesn’t have great foot quickness and has never really had to develop good field reading skills in order to succeed. He is just big and playing behind a line that made it very easy on him. That’s not a knock on Henry – he made the most of the opportunity he had, but it might show that his success had a lot to do with the system he was in than him being some otherworldly talent. Leonard Fournette had 14 more broken tackles last season with LSU.
Despite teams being wary of Henry, he’ll probably find himself on some NFL team, even as an undrafted rookie, although it won’t get to that. He’s done too much in one year under Nick Saban to be completely ostracized. But teams are a lot higher on running backs like Ezekiel Elliott who shows a much wider range of talents, not to mention a more balanced role and usage ratio. Henry might have had a legendary season for Alabama, but it acts as a deterrent for NFL teams.