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Could RB Henry be historically good?

Posted Mar 25, 2016

Recent draft history hasn't always been kind to running backs and Heisman Trophy winners, but Alabama's Heisman Trophy-winning running back could be an exception.

Derrick Henry recently wrapped up a remarkable run as an amateur, but there are some historic trends that would suggest he'll be hard-pressed to keep his run going.

The thing is, Henry is about making history rather than repeating it.

"You just gotta let it fuel you," Henry said. "The only thing you can worry about is what you can control, and that's going out there and performing and competing and doing the best you can do."

In the years leading up to the NFL Draft, Henry's best was historically good. At Yulee (Fla.) High School, the running back broke the national record for career rushing yards with more than 12,000, including more than 4,000 as a senior. Then at the University of Alabama, Henry averaged more than 10 yards a carry as a true freshman in a complementary role; came within 10 yards of rushing for 1,000 in a timeshare as a sophomore; then last season led the nation in rushing with 2,219 yards and led the Crimson Tide to its latest national title.

Henry won the Heisman Trophy in the process – and therein start the questions based on history. There's the so-called curse of the trophy, and there's the fact that running backs have lost value in recent drafts: Two were selected in the first round last season, but in each of the previous two seasons, none were selected in the first round to snap a streak that began in 1964.

Everyone seems sure that Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott will be selected in the first round of next month's draft, but the jury is out on Henry.

"Man, I can't be worried about that," Henry said. "I approach the situation as an underdog working my way up. And that's how I approach every day since I've been training, just trying to get better every day and get ready to go out and compete."

Even with the obvious strength of his game – both physically and mentally – Henry is strong enough to realize that are reasons beyond recent draft history that he might be passed over in the first round.

"I feel like I can do better at everything, but the questions are my quickness, catching the ball, my protection," he said. "I definitely want to get better at that and showcase that I can do things like that, but I know I need to work on that."

During the draft process, Henry has had an abundance of resources to help him along the way. There are countless Alabama players in the NFL, enough that he can just go position-specific and lean on Crimson Tide running backs in the NFL for any advice he needs.

Henry and former Alabama running back Mark Ingram – who has spent his entire NFL career with the New Orleans Saints - are the last two running backs to win the Heisman Trophy. There's also former Crimson Tide running back T.J. Yeldon, selected by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the second round of last year's draft.

"I talk to Mark Ingram a lot. He's really been a big help with me, just giving me advice the whole season and reaching out to me," Henry said. "T.J., we've talked a lot, especially going through this process. He's really been a help just giving me advice about everything.

"He always went out of his way to make sure I had everything I needed so I could be good when I was in the game."

When Henry rushed for 990 yards in 2014, Yeldon was there stride-for-stride, rushing for 979 yards. In an era in the NFL when running-back-by-committee has become the norm – another reason not many backs are taken in the first round – Henry could find himself in a timeshare situation somewhere next year.

Or, he could just keep making history.

"I love watching Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch run the ball," Henry said, referencing two of the game's recent workhorse backs. "But I never really compared to anybody. I feel like everybody has their own style."