Rookie Rundown: RB Darrell Henderson, Memphis

Rookie Rundown: RB Darrell Henderson, Memphis

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Rookie Rundown: RB Darrell Henderson, Memphis


Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Darrell Henderson enters the draft with the upside of a devastating rusher that can score anytime he touches the ball and yet with the downgrade that his size will limit his success in the NFL.

A three-year starter for Memphis,  Henderson took over in the middle of his freshman season and spent his time playing the 1A to Patrick Taylor Jr.’s 1B. Last year, Henderson ran for 1,909 yards on 214 carries and opted to sit out of the Tiger’s bowl game to focus on the NFL draft. He could have potentially broken 2,000 rushing yards for the year. Taylor rushed for 1,122 yards on 208 carries last year, so Henderson contributed much on the run-heavy attack.

Henderson accounted for over 200 rushing yards in three different games last year and carried up to 31 times though most often would see between 15 and 20 rushing attempts. He was relied on for only one or two receptions per game. Henderson’s claim to fame is his gaudy rushing average – 8.9 yards per carry in each of his last two years.

Height: 5-8
Weight: 208 pounds
40 time: 4.49 seconds

He elected to forgo his senior year and declare for the NFL draft. He’s never been considered a speedster but turned in a  respectable 4.49 40-time at the combine. While his workload in college wasn’t heavy, he did plenty with every touch and doesn’t carry the burden of too much wear and tear.

Year Games Runs Yards Avg. TD Catch Yards. TD Total Yards Total TDs
2016 13 87 482 5.5 5 20 237 3 719 8
2017 12 130 1154 8.9 9 24 226 2 1380 11
2018 13 214 1909 8.9 22 19 295 3 2204 25


  • Homerun hitter on any play. Aggressive runner when he breaks into the open. Considered one of the most elusive runners in this class.
  • Tremendous balance and very shifty. Works well off blocks with great timing for cuts. Can change direction quickly and has the ability to manipulate second-level defenders.
  • Has surprising power when he gets up to speed. Not a short-yardage rusher but can pick up the tougher yards beyond the line of scrimmage.
  • Valuable role on screens and swing passes that can expand with more experience in the right offense.
  • Led the nation in all-purpose yards (2,204), touchdowns (25), and rushing touchdowns (22) in 2018.
  • Explosive runner that can provide the lightning role to a bigger backs thunder.
  • Ran a 4.36 40-time at the combine unofficially but was officially credited with the 4.49. Led the nation with 15 plays of 40 yards or more last year.


  • Undersized and not expected to shoulder a full-time load in the NFL.
  • Limited experience in pass protection and could become a liability in this area without improvement.
  •  Won’t be used for goal-line work in the NFL against bigger and better defenses than he saw in college.
  • Not an inside runner. Could be limited in any offense that doesn’t possess a passing game that opponents respect and that invites the defense to stack the line.
  • Not expected to be a featured runner.

Fantasy outlook

Henderson is one of those backs that was tremendously productive in college but didn’t do much work as a receiver or a blocker, and his size becomes a liability in the NFL. He’s drawn comparisons to Kareem Hunt, DeAngelo Williams and Matt Brieda.  His 2018 season was one of the greatest in college football history with almost 2,000 rushing yards and an 8.9-yard rushing average.

The expectation is that he’ll end up with a team that has a committee backfield and that he’ll handle 12 to 15 touches per game. That’s plenty in college when he gained 8.9 yards per carry but how well he translates into the pro level depends on a lot of factors and not all just about him.

Henderson may end up as a change of pace back or even an occasional slot receiver. He needs to have the ball in the open field where his talents are best shown. Even in this less-than-average class of running backs, he’s projected to be selected between the second and fifth rounds and most likely around the third.

His relatively low workloads in college mean there is plenty of tread left on the tires. He’s been durable and rarely fumbles. Since he’s likely to be a late second-round pick at best, he’ll be available to any NFL and that opens up where he might end up. There is speculation that he could end up with the Texans, Vikings, Buccaneers or  Eagles.

Henderson is one of the more interesting rookies this year. He could end up just a secondary back in a committee and never translate his college success into more than being an average change-of-pace back.  But – he’s been an undeniably electric running back and draws at least some parallels to a couple of other third-round picks that came into the NFL with somewhat similar questions – Alvin Kamara (3.03 – 2017) and Kareem Hunt (3.22 – 2018). Henderson will be one of the rookie sleepers no matter where he ends up.


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