FILE - In this Nov. 28, 2015, file photo, Alabama running back Derrick Henry (2) runs for a touchdown in the second half of an NCAA college football game against Auburn in Auburn, Ala. Henry figures to be either a late first-round or a second-round pick in next week's NFL draft. He'd be the fifth running back from Alabama picked in the first two rounds since 2011.  (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

FILE - In this Nov. 28, 2015, file photo, Alabama running back Derrick Henry (2) runs for a touchdown in the second half of an NCAA college football game against Auburn in Auburn, Ala. Henry figures to be either a late first-round or a second-round pick in next week's NFL draft. He'd be the fifth running back from Alabama picked in the first two rounds since 2011. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

Derrick Henry hoping to follow recent Alabama backs in draft

  • By JOHN ZENOR
  • Thursday, April 21, 2016 1:00am
  • News

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Derrick Henry is set to become the latest Alabama running back to parlay collegiate success into a sizable NFL paycheck.

The Heisman Trophy winner is also hoping he’ll consistently produce big numbers on the field, which hasn’t been the case with his recent Alabama predecessors.

Henry is expected next week to become the fifth Crimson Tide running back drafted in the first two rounds since 2011, an impressive run even if first-rounders Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson have had unspectacular careers so far.

“You definitely want to carry on what’s been going on,” Henry said of the draft.

Success has been harder to come by for the ex-Tide runners after draft night.

Green Bay’s Eddie Lacy, the lowest pick of the group, has had the best start with two seasons of 1,100-plus yards before posting career-low numbers in 2015. Ingram’s also had two solid, though injury-shorted seasons with New Orleans after totaling 1,462 yards in his first three years.

Yeldon had a promising start as a Jacksonville Jaguars rookie before a season-ending injury. Richardson, a former No. 3 overall pick by the Cleveland Browns, is trying to rebuild his career with the Baltimore Ravens after sitting out last season. He’s been the biggest disappointment in the group.

None of the questionable production from Alabama running backs will likely have any effect on Henry’s draft stock.

“One of the scouting axioms is you don’t grade schools, you grade individual players,” said Phil Savage, a former NFL general manager who now runs the Senior Bowl. “Trent Richardson has struggled but T.J. Yeldon looks like he’s going to have a good career. Mark Ingram has, as a first-rounder, at times been a disappointment but at other times he’s been better than OK.

“Eddie Lacy burst on the scene his rookie year, took a bit of a step back last year. I think you have to look at the individual. Derrick Henry is a hard worker. I think he’s figured out, and Alabama figured out, what worked best for him and they capitalized on that.”

Henry had one of the most prolific rushing seasons in major college football history, including Southeastern Conference records of 2,219 yards and 28 rushing touchdowns to lead the Tide to a national title. Henry said the Bama backs who preceded him have advised him leading up to the draft to “just enjoy it.”

“I talk to them all the time,” Henry said. “They always give me good advice. We always talk about it. Any time I want to talk to them, they’re all ready to talk.”

While Ingram won the 2009 Heisman and Richardson was a finalist two years later, none had a season like Henry did as a junior — his only stint as a full-time starter. It’s also hard to compare the more compact runners Alabama has had since 2011 to the 6-foot-3, 243-pounder.

But Savage said he can recall seeing all those smaller backs at Alabama get tackled from behind in open field, but not Henry, who’s hard to stop once he gets going.

Unlike teammates Reggie Ragland, Jarran Reed and A’Shawn Robinson, Henry isn’t planning to attend the draft in Chicago.

Savage doesn’t believe Henry will fall beyond the second round, saying he is “similar but a better version of Brandon Jacobs,” a supersized former running back for the New York Giants.

Henry is expected to be the second running back chosen, behind Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott. Savage cited the Carolina Panthers, alongside similarly huge quarterback Cam Newton, as a possible destination.

“I think he’s different than all the other running backs that Alabama has produced since Nick Saban arrived,” Savage said. “He’s going through sort of the same situation that he went through coming out of high school. People see him as a 6-foot-3, 245-pound football player but they’re like, ‘Are you really a running back?’ He looks like an outside linebacker.

“Alabama was wise enough to take him and let him play running back. I think that he’s not a running back that is a fit for every team in the league.”

Luckily for Henry, it only takes one.

___

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

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