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Derrick Henry: A unique prospect to own in fantasy

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Leading up to the 2016 NFL Draft, each day NFL Fantasy will profile a prospect who could make a splash in fantasy next season. Today's subject is former Alabama running back Derrick Henry.

It's important when viewing a film (or other form of art) to understand what it is and what it is trying to accomplish, and not project onto it your own ideals of what it should be. Take the "Fast and Furious" franchise for instance. No one in their right mind goes into said movies expecting Oscar-caliber dialogue and plotting. They want fast cars, ridiculous stunts, awesome action and some cheesy one-liners. Those movies deliver on fan expectations, and most don't begrudge the filmmakers for that.

Similarly, it's important when studying a prospect to not suffer the same pitfalls of projecting personal ideals or desires onto a him when watching tape, and I feel this is what has been happening all too frequently to Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry. His agility tests fell a bit short at the combine, leading his doubters to decry him as nothing more than a limited, situational running back in the NFL. This train of thought seems to follow the logic of people who bash the "Fast and Furious" series because it isn't as good as films like "Spotlight." Just because Henry doesn't have the pizzazz or lateral quickness of some of his fellow running backs in this class doesn't mean he'll be any less successful than them. Perhaps he's the "Fast and Furious" of this draft class: A big, noisy force of nature that's just as effective as its counterparts, but in a different fashion. And with that, it's time to dive in and explore why the Derrick Henry hate has gone a little too far.

Full 2016 "Prospect a Day" list

Henry's NFL.com draft profile

Strengths

2016 NFL DRAFT

Draft coverage:


     » Size/speed/power freak
     » Ridiculous acceleration and explosion for his size
     » Finishes runs with extreme prejudice, always falls forward
     » Wears down defenses, stays strong and fast in the fourth quarter

The easiest trait to notice about Henry is that he cuts an intimdating figure. Standing 6-foot-3 and weighing 247 pounds, Henry honestly looks more like a defensive end than a running back. Yet, Henry can MOVE. He clocked in at a 4.54-second 40-yard dash, and shows rare levels of explosion and acceleration for his size. He finished among the top five in the vertical (fifth) and broad (second) jumps, despite weighing on average 33.25 pounds and 42.25 pounds more than the other finishers in the top five, respectively. That's insane.

All of this testing backs up what Henry put on tape during his monster season at Alabama in 2015. He was stuck behind T.J. Yeldon for his first two seasons with the Crimson Tide, but 2015 was the Derrick Henry show and he set the SEC on fire. Henry's 395 rushes, 2,219 yards and 28 touchdowns were all tops in the FBS. Henry can both blow games open in the first quarter with home run plays, or salt away leads in the fourth. And wherever or whenever he runs, Henry makes sure his opponent feel it. Few backs finished runs in the NCAA last year with as much power and authority as Henry, who routinely had defenders bounce off of him while trying to bring him to the ground. All of those extra yards he gains falling forward will become extra fantasy points for owners in 2016.

Lastly, for a bigger back Henry showed remarkable endurance, rarely getting gassed in the fourth quarter. Alabama often counted on Henry to close out games, and he delivered. As Lance Zierlein notes in his profile of Henry, almost 30 pecent of his explosive carries came in the fourth quarter. Henry being able to stay on the field so much will certainly win teams over, and set him up for more opportunities to score in fantasy.

Weaknesses


     » Limited lateral agility
     » Gets tripped up all too often
     » Could stand to keep knees higher moving through traffic
     » Had over 400 touches last year with Alabama

While Henry's size/speed/explosion testing matched what was on film, so too did his agility testing. Henry definitely lacks elite lateral agility, but that doesn't mean he's a stiff-hipped lumberer. Henry still has enough wiggle and foot quickness to get by, but don't expect him to be making many ankle-breaking jump cuts in the backfield or Le'Veon Bell-esque cutbacks through the line of scrimmage. That's not what type of back Henry is, and that's fine.

While Henry is excellent at finishing his runs, he all too often gets tripped up by low tackles or bodies in the hole. As Eric Stoner rather humorously (but sharply) noted on Twitter, Henry is the football equivalent of an AT-AT from "Star Wars." He's an imposing force to be reckoned with, but if you can tie up his legs he'll go down in a heap. This also could be a factor in why Henry was only credited with seven broken tackles in 2015. I'm curious to see if he can improve this facet of his game by keeping his knees higher as he runs through traffic in the NFL, but this isn't a deal-breaker if he doesn't.

While Henry had a massive workload last season (406 total touches), his 2015 touches accounted for 74 percent of his total college workload. Teams could be concerned that he might be worn down a bit after a season with such heavy usage, but Henry showed no signs of fatigue in his final collegiate game (36-158-3 in the National Championship Game against Clemson), so this is likely a minor concern if at all.

Ideal NFL fantasy fits


     » Dallas Cowboys
     » Cleveland Browns
     » Indianapolis Colts
     » Carolina Panthers
     » Washington
     » New England Patriots

Everybody loves dreaming running backs to Dallas, and while it sounds unlikely they'll use the No. 4 overall pick on Ezekiel Elliott it'd be downright stealing if they got Henry in the second round. The Browns are trying to get a thunder-and-lightning dynamic off the ground with Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson, but Henry would be a much more powerful thunder than Crowell. Despite minimal reception numbers in college, Henry can catch and could slide in as the featured back of the future in Indianapolis once Frank Gore hangs up the cleats. How scary would a Cam Newton-Derrick Henry read-option attack be behind that mauling Carolina line? Talk about terrifying. Washington seems inclined to entrust their backfield future to Matt Jones, but Derrick Henry would certainly be a nice way to keep defenses honest as Kirk Cousins tries to continue the ascent he started last season. The Patriots somehow manufactured meaningful fantasy seasons out of LeGarrette Blount ... just imagine what they could do with Henry.

Early fantasy draft projection

At the end of the day, is Henry going to win accolades (real or fake) as the best running back ever? Probably not. However, he wins on the field in his own way, and it's a way that can translate to the NFL and for fantasy purposes. He has the ability to be a multi-faceted runner in different schemes, and his size/physicality won't be lost once he starts running with the pros.

Unless you're feeling truly adventurous, Henry should be the second running back taken in dynasty formats. He's the second-most complete back in this class behind Ezekiel Elliott, and at worst should be a goal-line machine at the professional level. If he lands with a team that has designs to make him a featured back, he'll certainly warrant consideration in the middle round of fantasy drafts this fall. And while you might not want to pay to own the football equivalent of the "Fast and Furious" series with Henry on your roster, just know their are plenty of audiences (and NFL teams) who find him fascinating and worth the investment.

Why wait? CLICK HERE to get your 2016 NFL Fantasy season started.

-- Follow Alex on Twitter @AlexGelhar

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