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Daiyan Henley
NFL Draft

Daiyan Henley’s Upside Has NFL Draft Stock On The Rise

  • Jack McKessy
  • February 7, 2023
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If you’re a fan or a general manager of a team with a pressing need at the linebacker position, Washington State and Senior Bowl standout linebacker Daiyan Henley could be just the guy you’re looking for.

For Henley, the journey to get to this point has been anything but smooth, even if you only go back a few years. Before heading up to the Pacific Northwest as a linebacker, Henley was a wide receiver for the Nevada Wolfpack to begin his collegiate career, catching 17 passes for 232 yards, and three touchdowns in his first two seasons while also handling kick return duties. Two seasons into making the switch to the defensive side of the ball, Henley led the Wolfpack with 103 tackles and four interceptions.

After transferring to Washington State and playing against higher competition in the Pac-12, Henley only continued to boost his game. He finished his final season with a career-high 106 tackles and three forced fumbles while also adding another interception and two passes defensed to his collegiate totals.

Watching Henley play in Mobile, it wasn’t hard to see how his background as a receiver enhanced his ability to contribute on all three downs. The part of his skill set that shined the brightest during Senior Bowl practices was his ability to defend the pass.

In his one-on-one reps versus running backs each day, Henley mirrored their movements perfectly, reading routes, and changing direction well. By the end of each one-on-one period, it really felt like Henley broke up every pass in every rep. He never was fooled or got beat by a running back’s route out of the backfield in those drills and followed through by breaking up the pass each time. By the end of the week, it seemed pretty clear that Henley was the best linebacker in coverage at this year’s Senior Bowl.

In today’s NFL, a linebacker’s skills in coverage are an important part of the position’s skill set but not everything. The ability to blitz, deconstruct blocks, and defend the run are also extremely important aspects of playing linebacker. At the Senior Bowl, Henley showed off those abilities as well. 

In another running back versus linebacker one-on-one drill, linebackers took on the backs playing in the backfield as an extra pass protector. Henley shined there too with his physical play against the offensive players, driving back some of the guys that were otherwise shining in that drill. In team sessions, the Washington State product did well to fill gaps in the run game when the play came his way and also took good pursuit angles on runs to the opposite side. Overall though, it was Henley’s abilities in pass coverage that stood out more than his run-stopping capacity.

Ultimately, Henley is still a raw prospect at the position, which is to be expected for a guy who just started playing linebacker in 2019 after many years on the opposite side of the ball. The upside he showed over recent years and at the Senior Bowl is undeniable. Daiyan Henley has real potential to be a three-down contributor at the position with his skills in coverage on passing downs as well as the explosiveness and physicality he brings on every play.

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Jack McKessy