Alabama's Derrick Henry preparing for draft in Orlando
ORLANDO -- Derrick Henry led the nation in rushing, won a Heisman Trophy and led Alabama to a national championship this past season, but he's still working to prove himself as he prepares for April's NFL Draft.
"Quickness, lateral quickness," the former Crimson Tide star said Tuesday before a workout at Disney's ESPN Wide World of Sports complex, where he's one of 28 draft hopefuls training this spring. "I'm just trying to get better each and every day. That's what we're working on."
As prolific as Henry was this past season, rushing for 2,219 yards and 28 touchdowns for Alabama, the recent lackluster history of Crimson Tide backs in the NFL puts a question mark on him for some. Trent Richardson was a bust as a top-five pick in 2012, Mark Ingram has yet to rush for 1,000 yards in a season five years after he was a first-round pick, and even Eddie Lacy saw his numbers drop off in his third NFL season.
Tom Shaw, who runs a draft training program at the Disney complex and has worked with 10 former first-round picks, said he's seen Henry projected as a fourth-round pick and fully expects him to go much higher in the draft.
"I can understand when you have guys that played at University of Alabama, running backs that played at Alabama that didn't do very well, but they ran 4.8 and 4.9 at the combine," Shaw said. "This kid can run 4.4 at the combine without any question. He'll jump 40 in the vertical. He's a freak. He'll do what Calvin Johnson did when he gets to his workout, which is pretty impressive."
In fairness, Ingram ran the 40 in 4.62 seconds at the 2011 combine, and while Richardson and Lacy didn't run at their combines, Richardson was timed at 4.49 in his pro day workout, while Lacy was timed at 4.62 at his. If Henry can be faster than those backs despite being listed at 6-foot-3 and 238 pounds by Alabama, he could be the school's third running back picked in the first round since 2011. The rest of college football has only totaled four in that span.
With an unusual combination of size and speed, Henry said there isn't an NFL back to which he would compare himself. "I don't really compae myself to anybody," he said. "Everybody has their own style, their own way they play the game."
Former Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott and former UNC quarterback Marquise Williams are among the bigger names training with Henry at the Disney complex, alongside NFL veterans, baseball players like Carlos Gonzalez and Martin Prado and sprinters.