Alabama running back reputation could drag down Derrick Henry


When it comes to running backs in the 2016 draft, Ezekiel Elliott has become the clear No. 1 option. At a distant No. 2 sits Derrick Henry. That distance has been exacerbated, in the minds of some league insiders, by the fact that Henry played college football at Alabama.

The perception in the NFL is that players exit Tuscaloosa with bodies that have experienced potentially significant wear and tear. When it comes to the ups and downs of former Alabama running backs at the next level, the pounding they took while playing in the SEC — and while playing for Nick Saban — creates a concern that there isn’t as much tread on the tires as other players may have.

“NCAA regulations currently do not address inseason, full-contact practices,” the NCAA itself declares in a document outlining non-binding “guidelines” for practice. Which means that coaches can still work players in practice as hard as the coach wants (with the exception of the Ivy League and Pac-12, conferences which have imposed their own limits on practice).

For Henry, winning the Heisman and being a flat-out giant at six-three and 240 pounds helps. The extent to which that frame absorbed punishment in college, where he had a whopping 405 in-game touches last season, hurts.

How those pros and cons blend will become more clear on Thursday and, more likely, Friday. Steve Doerschuk of the Canton Repository makes the case for the Browns to consider Henry at the top of round two, notwithstanding the team’s experiences with Trent Richardson, the last great Alabama running back who has been the opposite of great in the NFL.

Setting aside the apples-to-road-apples comparison between Henry and Richardson, it’s hard to imagine the Moneybrowns opting to pick a running back so high, given that plenty of competent running backs can be found at any round of the draft, and beyond. This could be where potential friction between the front office and the coaching staff manifests itself, given that coach Hue Jackson made the Bengals offense go with a pair of second-rounders in Gio Bernard and Jeremy Hill.

Regardless, Henry will have a chance — in Cleveland or elsewhere — to show that he’s more like Mark Ingram and Eddie Lacy than Trent Richardson. Given that Ingram and Lacy have had their share of struggles in the NFL, Henry should be aiming even higher.

35 responses to “Alabama running back reputation could drag down Derrick Henry

  1. I’d love to see teams worry about this enough to let him fall to NE in the second round.

    He may not last 10 years, but all I want is a good RB for the rest of Brady’s career.

  2. Nick Saban does not coach to get you ready for the next level. He coaches you to win in college. Alabama does not = NFL superstar. His players are never known to be “cerebral” and his qb’s suck.

  3. This guy reminds me of Rod Bernstein former RB of San Diego Chargers. He was 6’3, 235lbs and ran upright, much like Henry. He and Natrone Means were wearing out defenses in the late 80’s, early 90’s. Rod was never an elite RB and my gut tells me Henry will not either. Serviceable, yes but not elite. If a team wants a hammer in the backfield that will wear down opposing defense, Rod, I mean Henry is a good pick.

  4. I think someone will draft him high and regret t because he’ll be on the exercise bike a lot.

  5. Lacy should have a monster year, if he’s 20 pounds lighter. Henry is built to withstand the pounding, I think 2nd round is great value for him.

  6. Henry is a beast and the best RB in the draft. His stats blow Elliots away. If the Browns dont take him at 32, they are dumb. Im worried about the panthers taking him, the Texans taking him at 22, and the Donkeys at 31

  7. Sure, Eddie Lacy has struggled. It’s what he does. Anyone who expects anything different is delusional.

  8. I say Panthers should draft him in round 1. They need a young back and Henry fits them perfectly

  9. Good article with some valid points. While I’m biased, as an Alabama fan, I believe Henry would be a terrific 2nd round pick for a team willing to dedicate itself to the run. I was fortunate enough to go to both the LSU game and SEC Champ game in ATL this past season, and this young man is in another league from Richardson and Lacey. His work ethic and toughness towers over most and Nick Saban cannot say enough great things about his former RB. I do agree that Elliott may have more athletic ability and versatility. And though Henry probably won’t last the 8-10 years a team would hope for, how many backs do last that long these days? He’s a grinder and improves vastly over each quarter of every game. The wear and tear will eventually break him down, but he could very well dominate defenses for a good five years if picked by a team willing to give him the rock 25 times per game. Good stuff.

  10. Drafting players is a coin flip. The advances in evaluating talent hasn’t done much to weed out the busts. Doesn’t seem like the odds of picking a blue chip player are very good. Maybe Henry will be great, maybe he’ll be average and maybe he will be out of the league next year at this time.

  11. Wisconsin running backs do worse in the NFL. Montee Ball, John White, Melvin Gordon, Ron Dayne. I would stay away from them. It’s always Wisconsin’s offensive line that makes them look awesome.

  12. Wearing down a defense is not as easy in the NFL today. The bettering ram that gets stronger as they game goes on isn’t really a thing when NFL fronts are so deep.

  13. He is also a good fit in New England. Our offense would be unstoppable.

  14. Henry is probably worth a 3rd rd pick.

    I am one that downgrades Alabama players, because they have the best team. You never see them on film against a better team, and even the good ones will struggle to make it in the pros-unlike Khalil Mack types when he played Ohio State.

    The other thing that scares me is what was mentioned in the article about overusing their players. Henry had 395 carries last year-to put that into perspective only 5 D1 backs had 300 carries or more-Fournette had exactly 300- and a Ron Dayne like 11 catches.

  15. I was going to say you make a great point about the number of carries Henry had last year. With the CFB seasons getting longer w/playoff system, 100 of those carries were from the SEC Champ game and 2 playoff games. Baja ran him ragged at the end of the season for sure.

  16. Fair enough. I do like what I see on film. Violent runner with quickness and elusiveness. Pair him up with Latavius Murray and even out the mileage. Raiders 2nd round.

  17. He is going in the 2nd round. I agree with all the statement of why he stock is not up there in the first. The main reason E. Elliott is the clear #1 is because he can catch the occasional wheel route, but mainly because he knows how to read and Block in a Pro Set offense. Derrick Henry has one Stat that is undeniably why he might be valuable to alte 1st and a 2nd for sure…. No RB of his size has EVER run the 40 time he got. Case Closed.

  18. I don’t get the line about Henry is worn out from running the ball at Bama. In his career he had 602 rushes to Elliott’s 592 and he doesn’t have an attitude like Elliott.

  19. Phat Eddie is going to dominate in 2016. He had some maturing to do, that’s all.

  20. These comments are not even accurate. Alabama usually has a 1-2 punch at RB where the second guy gets significant carries…so the primary RB doesn’t take nearly the pounding a full time starter does with other teams. Last season was an anomaly…Kenyan Drake got hurt and Henry got most of the carries.

    As for Bama RBs in the NFL…Eddie Lacy was Offensive Rookie of the Year…Mark Ingram is coming into his own and has been to a Pro Bowl…and TJ Yeldon had a pretty solid rookie season for Jacksonville last year. So that’s 3 starting RBs in the NFL…Henry would make 4. What other program will have that many starting RBs in the NFL? It’s time the Trent Richardson bust wasn’t attributed to the entire program.

  21. Cant wait til next year when the future NFL rookie of the year Derrick Henry is back in TTown mentoring the juniors and seniors coming out of the Capstone. Sleep on Henry all you want, he ll be the one still chugging in the 4th quarter.

  22. “Should be aiming higher than Ingram and Lacy”

    Ingram I can agree with. He was terrible his first 3 years in the league. Lacy? No way. Even his “worst” season as a pro he netted 1500+ total yards from scrimmage. In other words, just short of AP. And I’d bet the over on Lacy’s yards this year.

    Henry does look like a beast though.

  23. If teams want to see if he’ll turn out like Lacy, just check his locker for Big Mac wrappers.

  24. saints fan here. ingram kinda stinks. no home run threat at all. and he doesnt bruise the defense at all. hes a dink and dunk runner which is not ok when youre passing 65% of downs

  25. Sure, Eddie struggled last year… after KJ Wright dove at his ankle and the dude was hobbling all year on one good wheel.

    Along with his oline being banged up most of the year and defenses loading the box due to the lack of a deep threat target.

  26. If I were advising Henry, I would ask him to seriously consider switching positions to linebacker. He is big enough, tough enough, would have a longer career potentially, and make more $$$$ as the RB, through no fault of their own has become a devalued position in the NFL due to the rule changes that encourage the passing game.

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