Alabama Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry held off announcing his intentions for the next phase of his football career as the Crimson Tide competed for another national championship.
But Alabama's latest phenomenal ball-carrier decided what many suspected he would all along. Henry indicated Thursday he'll forgo his senior year in Tuscaloosa in favor of entering the 2016 NFL draft, per ESPN's Joe Schad.
Henry ran for 2,219 yards and 28 touchdowns as the driving force behind Alabama's national championship team. He endured quite a bit of wear and tear, but his 6'3", 242-pound frame often made the punishment more painful for opposing defenders.
The 21-year-old has a unique blend of quickness and size that figures to position him for instant success on Sundays. He brings to mind former Tide running back Eddie Lacy, who made an immediate impact as the league's Offensive Rookie of the Year for the Green Bay Packers in 2013.
But Henry is even bigger, taller and stronger than Lacy was coming out of college (6'0", 220 lbs) and has comparable speed.
Bleacher Report draft expert Matt Miller is nevertheless not particularly high on Henry. Miller rates him 74th overall on his latest big board—a projected second- or third-round pick—and provided some interesting data Thursday to back up his evaluation:
Interesting @PFF_College stat: Derrick Henry ranked No. 17 on "Elusive Rating", which is a grade of how RBs do past what the OL gives them— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) January 14, 2016
However, as ESPN Stats & Info highlighted, Henry accomplished all he could have hoped to at the college level and therefore didn't really need another season before making the NFL leap:
Derrick Henry: 1st player to lead FBS in rushing yards and win a national title since Charles White, 1978 USC— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 12, 2016
Although running backs aren't as highly valued as they once were in the pros, that shouldn't stop Henry from hearing his name called in the early rounds. Todd Gurley proved how much of a splash he could make as the 10th overall pick of the St. Louis Rams in last year's draft—and he was coming off a torn ACL.
The experience of having survived the gauntlet of SEC competition will serve Henry well as he embarks on his NFL journey. His chief competition to be the first back off the board is Ohio State's Ezekiel Elliott, a scenario that should serve as a fascinating subplot and a hot-button debate topic leading up to the draft.