*First installment of Alabama prospects for NFL Draft series*
Running back Derrick Henry had a season to remember in 2015, totaling 2,219 rushing yards and 28 touchdowns on 395 carries. He averaged 147.9 yards per game and became the first back in Southeastern Conference history to record 2,000 yards in a season. Along with winning a national championship, Henry won multiple individual awards, including Maxwell, Doak Walker and Walter Camp national honors. He joins former Alabama running back Mark Ingram as the program’s second Heisman Trophy winner. The Yulee, Florida native now prepares for the NFL.
Three weeks separate him from the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Ind. Media personell, pro scouts and coaches will dissect the contenders from pretenders starting on February 23 and ending on the 29. Henry, 6-foot-3, 242 pounds, is projected to be taken between the first and second round. He stands as the second back to be chosen, behind Ezekiel Elliot.
Henry has made it known publicly that he wants to be drafted by the Dallas Cowboys, one of few teams in need for a running back. Chicago’s Auditorium Theatre will be the venue for this year’s event starting on April 28. Yours truly of Touchdown Alabama Magazine with a few possibles NFL homes for Henry.
5. Arizona Cardinals
- 2015 record: 13-3, NFC West Champions
- Division: NFC West
- First selection in 2016 draft: 29th overall pick
- Head coach: Bruce Arians
Summary: Arizona had a great run in 2015, but a power run game is needed to consistently win the NFC West.
Seattle has Marshawn Lynch, the L.A. Rams have Todd Gurley and Carolina has Jonathan Stewart. Chris Johnson was a solid pickup; however, he is 30 years old and entering the downslope of his career. Rookie David Johnson proved to special, yet he was more so of scat back. The Cardinals have Stefan Taylor, Andre Ellington and Kerwynn Williams, nevertheless it does not have a power back that can relieve pressure off quarterback Carson Palmer.
This became evident during the NFC Championship match-up against Carolina. Arizona was held to 60 yards rushing, which allowed the Panthers’ defense to harass Palmer in the pocket.
He was sacked three times and recorded six giveaways, including four interceptions.
Derrick Henry would give Arizona a strong runner in between the tackles. He gets better as games wear on against elite competition and does not mind seeing his touches amass. Alabama running back coach Burton Burns developed Henry into being a exceptional pass blocker in the last two seasons.
He has shown to be a productive target out the backfield, catching 17 passes for 285 yards and two touchdowns in his three seasons at Tuscaloosa.
4. New York Giants
- 2015 record: 6-10, 3rd in NFC East
- Division: NFC East
- First selection in 2016 draft: 10th overall pick
- Head coach: Ben McAdoo
Summary: Catches from David Tyree, Plaxico Burress and Mario Manningham all made headlines, but it was a strong run game mixed with a stellar defense that won the New York Giants two Super Bowl championships in 2007 and 2011.
Running back Brandon Jacobs totaled 1,009 yards and four touchdowns on 202 carries during the 2007 season. He and Amad Bradshaw combined for 1,230 rushing yards and 16 scores in its latter Super Bowl run.
Rashad Jennings produced good numbers in 2015, recording 863 yards and three touchdowns on 195 attempts; however, New York did not have a second back to compliment him.
Eli Manning is 35 years old and despite him having some years left in the tank, the Giants need to provide him a durable back.
Pairing Derrick Henry with former Alabama teammate Landon Collins would make a lot of sense in New York. Henry takes pressure off Manning and a rotation of him and Jennings could spell doom for defenses.
3. New England Patriots
- 2015 record: 12-4, AFC East Champions
- Division: AFC East
- First selection in 2016 draft: No first-round pick
- Head coach: Bill Belichick
Summary: Injuries to LeGarrette Blount and Dion Lewis forced Brandon Bolden and James White to emerge for New England. Blount is a solid running back, but he is starting to slow down at age 29. The “Deflate Gate” scandal in the 2015 playoffs cost the Patriots a first-round pick, but head coach Bill Belichick and company are in need of a every down runner.
Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels runs a lot of one and two tight end sets. New England will occasionally line up in I-formation to run the ball. Derrick Henry’s strength is running between the tackles. He holds the ball high and tight, using his vision to decipher the best running lane.
The Patriots are also on the market to find a vertical, deep threat wide receiver. Tight end Rob Gronkowski is a big time game changer, yet it needs someone else to complement him. Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola are good, but both guys are more so suitable in the slot.
2. Seattle Seahawks
- 2015 record: 10-6, 2nd in NFC West
- Division: NFC West
- First selection in 2016 draft: 26th overall pick
- Head coach: Pete Carroll
Summary: With Marshawn Lynch announcing his retirement, Seattle will be out looking for his heir apparent. Lynch nursed some injuries last season, which limited him to 417 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Russell Wilson was great in 2015, completing 68.1 percent of his throws for 4,024 passing yards with 35 total touchdowns to eight interceptions.
He accounted for 553 rushing yards on 103 carries.
The Seahawks return Thomas Rawls, Christine Michael, Fred Jackson and Bryce Brown, nevertheless, Rawls was the lone one to produce last year with 830 yards and seven scores.
Seattle missed out on getting former Georgia running back Todd Gurley in the 2015 NFL Draft.
He ended up being selected by the St. Louis (now L.A. Rams) Rams and would record 1,106 yards rushing with 10 touchdowns. Gurley was awarded NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year during NFL Honors show last week. Selecting Henry in the upcoming draft would alleviate the pain of not getting Gurley and watching Lynch leave. Size comes as a plus for Seattle in drafting Henry. Lynch stood at 5-foot-11 and weighed 216 pounds, while Henry comes in at 6-foot-3 and weighing 242 pounds. Its offensive line is in place, all the Seahawks need a big time ball carrier.
1. Dallas Cowboys
- 2015 record: 4-12, 4th in NFC East
- Division: NFC East
- First selection in 2016 draft: 4th overall pick
- Head coach: Jason Garrett
Summary: Ezekiel Elliot or Derrick Henry? It is a decision that faces Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones, head coach Jason Garrett and the team. Henry wants to have a star on his helmet next season and after passing up a talent like Johnny Manziel, Dallas does not want to miss again.
Quarterback Tony Romo was able to break through the clutter in 2014, guiding Dallas to an NFC East title and a playoff appearance after multiple 8-8 seasons. He had an MVP-caliber year with 3,705 passing yards and 34 touchdown to nine interceptions, yet the real winner was running back DeMarco Murray. He finished 2014 as the league’s Offensive Player of the Year, according to Associated Press and Pro Football Writers Association. Murray was the NFL’s rushing leader (1,845 yards) and co-leader in touchdowns with 13.
A choice to keep receiver Dez Bryant over him led to Murray going to Philadelphia. Dallas struggled last season, ending at 4-12. The Cowboys have one of the better offensive lines in the NFL, anchored by Travis Frederick, Doug Free and Zach Martin.
It resembles a group that Alabama football had in recent years with D.J. Fluker, Chance Warmack, Barrett Jones and others. Back surgeries and shoulder issues negated Romo from playing in 2015 and at 35 years old, he does not need to take many shots.
The NFC East is one of few divisions in the NFL that still believe in having a dominant defense and a steady run game. Dallas will draft its defensive unit, but selecting Henry would be huge.