NAME: Darrell Henderson
POSITION: Running Back
JERSEY: No. 8
RECRUITMENT RATING: 3-star
WT: 200 lbs
Vision –Loves to duck in behind his pullers and tuck into the second level. Most effective on rushes when able to bounce into the boundary but open field vision will allow him to weave through traffic quickly. Little more frantic in the A-gaps to run into back of blockers.
Feet/Change of Direction –Splendid confidence in his feet. Runs hard and shows excellent spring in his jump cut and softer angles to accelerate through his breaks. Does very well to posture himself at the line of scrimmage to accelerate through a break. Vast range in his cuts.
Durability –Low work volume, has put up unbelievable production for such a light workload. Despite flashes of good contact balance and aggression, he isn’t a grinder and isn’t going to wear out defenders by leaning on them late in games. More of a lead back in a stable vs. a feature piece.
Balance –Perhaps his best quality. Able to twist, cut, pinball or leap around contact and keep his momentum and keep the legs running at a high rate of speed. Sees pending contact and gets pad level down to deliver blows in the open field to add some contact balance.
Pass Protection –Shouldn’t be considered an upside play, although with receiving ability will need to develop if he’s to reach optimum snaps. Smaller back who won’t deter defenders in the pocket, particularly on interior assignments when needed to step into a free rusher.
Elusiveness –One of the most slippery rushers in the entire class. Runs with great wiggle and suddenness. Surreal lateral quickness and start/stop ability to break pursuit. Has a strong sense of defensive flow and a feel for where his open space is. Can wriggle out of tight quarters.
Receiving Ability –Predominantly used as a screen receiver and as a swing option paired with clear out routes. Doesn’t always catch the football and secure it cleanly but has terrific potent RAC skills when able to emulate a kick return and get him in space.
Short Yardage Skill –Capable of picking up tough yardage, so long as he’s able to keep his feet clean. Leg drive isn’t a feature quality, more comes from ability to contort and get skinny through tight spaces and slip through cracks. Isn’t going to be a goal line back due to lack of power vs. heavy sets.
Football Intelligence –Beneficiary of a lot of light boxes but at the same times has won between the tackles and working outside alike. Has experience as a ball carrier in Wildcat as well, so not averse to some special packages. Gifted, natural runner.
Effort –Love the attitude with the ball in his hands. Will bowl over similarly sized players. Has effective yards after contact thanks to feel for soft spaces. Will leak out of the backfield and pick off a defender on plays when teammates are given touches.
BEST TRAIT – Elusiveness
WORST TRAIT – Pass Protection
BEST FILM – UCF (2017)
WORST FILM – Connecticut (2017)
RED FLAGS – None
Darrell Henderson is a potent backfield weapon who projects favorably to either zone or gap concepts as a rusher. Henderson would be best featured in an outside zone system with his speed and quickness to cut into the second level, but he’s got enough patience to be effective between the tackles. Henderson will need to prove he’s a feature player and in the meantime he’d be best implemented as a primary piece of a stable/crop of backs with complementary skills.
Vision – Sees through the first level and into the second level and flashes the ability to think multiple moves ahead. Can get too interested in backside pursuit, looking for quick cutbacks and home run plays, and could benefit from spending more time on his initial read on inside/outside zone flow. Reads pullers quite well and maximizes elusive traits with patient running style.
Burst – Not an elite explosive player, but still very effective in getting to his second gear and can bust angles when working outside. Burst is more impressive when working through awkward body angles and exploding out of a cut/sudden stop. Straight-line acceleration a bit more pedestrian, which has something to do with short-striding, bowling-ball frame.
Change of Direction – Wicked. Has joystick-like ability and has never met a cut he didn’t think he could pull off — rightfully so. Ability to manipulate second-level defenders by stringing together multiple moves leads to impressive number of third-level runs. Has great flexibility through the lower half to redirect on a dime. Approaches cuts with great timing to break tackles; explosiveness in cuts behind line of scrimmage to sucker in second-level defenders is eye-popping.
Power – A bit lacking for his profile. Well-built player but doesn’t accelerate into contact as much as you’d like to see; has low pads but needs to learn how to deliver a strike. Too often lets contact come to him between the tackles. Can break head-on tackles from defensive backs, but more as a product of contact balance than actual hitting power. Does not profile well as a short-yardage or goal-line back, in terms of hard-nosed running.
2nd Level Speed – Has the juice. Hits a third gear when he sees paydirt and regularly embarrasses closing safeties and corners. Can’t really open up his stride due to size, but is urgent and explosive in the open field. Oily hips at full speed allow him to weave and manipulate space tremendously well, which turns long runs into super long runs. Contact balance and body control at full speed are incredible traits.
Contact Balance – Where he wins. Regularly melts off of contact and pinwheels through tackling attempts. Despite upright running style, retains natural leverage. Constant motion and redirection makes it difficult for in-space tacklers to get an angle on him, which leads to insufficient hits that he easily survives. Can get tripped up or significantly delayed in the first level due to vision/processing concerns putting him in bad spots, but can also slink through tight creases to vanish and re-appear, which confounds second-level fill defenders.
Decision-making – Generally sound but can get himself into trouble. Wants to bounce and work outside often, and has some ambitious faith in his elusive traits that isn’t necessarily misplaced, but is high-risk/high-reward. Does generally well to read long-developing power concepts, including multiple puller ideas, but can run into congestion on quick-hitting man blocking ideas as well as inside zone in his desire to get north immediately. Doesn’t prioritize gettin vertical.
Pass Catching – Was not overly involved in the passing attack, but has competitive numbers for this class and a favorable pro projection. Did not run an NFL route tree in Memphis but has the physical profile to win on option routes, multi-break routes, and wheel routes. RAC ability on space touches like swings and screens must be utilized by NFL offense.
Pass Protection – Does not project favorably to this role. Lacks good length despite having a strong, thick frame that could deliver power. Does not like head-on contact and prefers to screen rushers away as opposed to initiating contact and generating displacement. Recognition is shaky due to inexperience.
BEST TRAIT – Contact Balance
WORST TRAIT – Pass Protection
RED FLAGS – None
PRO COMPARISON – Kareem Hunt
Ideally, Henderson becomes a Kareem Hunt-like player in the NFL — he’ll need some work to get there, though. Henderson’s thick frame and great anticipation illustrate some of the best contact balance in this class, and that trait — married with terrific quickness and long speed — make him a threat to reverse field and house it on every touch. Henderson will benefit in the NFL from more complex routes and more frequent targets, as his skill set projects perfectly to that of a heavy RB-target offense.
That said, Henderson must become more willing to initiate contact to punch at an NFL weight, and teams should be wary of which concepts he runs early in his career. Henderson enjoyed wide highways, paved by his tremendous OL and scheme advantages, on many of his long runs. When things get a little tighter, Henderson has some great reps, but can also run himself into trouble, or look to make too much out of too little. Overall, Henderson is a 15-touch player in Year 1 who can likely bear the weight of a starting job by Year 2, if not Year 1.
Feet – Executes dynamic and aggressive cuts that land his feet well outside of his shoulders. Does well to position his frame to attack gaps. Generates good burst off his plant foot and times hits cuts well. Strings together moves with good timing.
Vision – Hit or miss. Took advantage of light boxes with fresh legs given his role on the offense. Has a tendency to widen his tracks. Most effective working off blocks and reading leverage. Could be more consistent if he didn’t get overly greedy at times.
Pass Protection – Has limited experience in pass protection and his frame doesn’t profile well to the role. Reps I observed revealed inconsistency framing rushers and staying square. Would need major development to not represent a liability in the NFL.
Receiving – Primarily used as a screen and swing guy where his ability to create in space is highlighted. Will need to evolve as a route runner to claim a more expansive role in the NFL. Not a consistently clean catcher of the football.
Balance – Illustrates outstanding balance when cutting, changing directions and working laterally. Absorbs contact extremely well and has a low center of gravity. Does well to sustain himself through hits. While he isn’t a power runner, a fair amount of would be tacklers slide off his frame on account of his balance and ability to set opponents up in space.
Elusiveness – Smooth, shifty and difficult for opponents to square up in space. Glides laterally and executes smooth jump cuts. Features outstanding agility and control. Has effective wiggle to shake tacklers and create in space.
Power – Illustrates good contact power when he’s able to generate some steam but he lacks the lower body power if challenged quickly.
Competitive Toughness – Competes within his capabilities but wouldn’t project him to grind out tough yards in short yardage situations. Battles for extra yardage and works hard to fall forward.
Versatility – Has most of his success attacking the edges and receiving touches in space. Modest ability between the tackles and hasn’t been asked to take on an extensive role in the passing game. Does not project favorably to function in pass protection.
BEST TRAIT – Balance
WORST TRAIT – Pass Protection
RED FLAGS – None
Henderson offers a blend of quickness, elusive traits and vision to provide a fairly dynamic offensive weapon. While he doesn’t quite have the dynamic long speed of a true home run threat, his production per touch in college was unbelievable. While I don’t foresee a feature role in Henderson’s future, I do believe he can be a complementary piece in a stable of backs where he gets touches in space and attack the edges. His limitations in pass protection, power and need to develop as a receiver temper his projection.