I took a lot of flak from fantasy Twitter about not including Carlos Henderson in my top-48 incoming skill position rookies article I recently published. I decided to dive deep and do a full breakdown of Henderson so that people can see what I see in him as a prospect.
Height: 5 feet 10 inches
Weight: 191 lbs
Projected 40-yard dash: 4.5
I have seen Henderson listed at 165 lbs and 191 lbs. If he shows up any less than 180 lbs at the combine (which is still way too small to take an NFL beating of the course of a career) I can forsee issues with Henderson vs. press coverage from bigger NFL cornerbacks. For his sake, I hope he is as close to (if not over) the 200 lb mark as possible.
When you are that small, you have to run a fast 40. Henderson doesn’t show the speed to be an outside receiver at the next level. Sure, smaller receivers can win in the NFL on the outside, but almost all of them have excellent speed. Steve Smith was smaller but ran a 4.39. Antonio Brown ran a 4.47 and has worked his way into one of the best route runners in the NFL. The point to take away is that if he can’t run sub 4.5 in the forty yard dash, I wouldn’t expect anything huge from the guy at the next level. If he can run in the 4.4’s his attractiveness definitely will spike.
I don’t have any problems with Henderson’s production at Louisianna Tech. 2016 was clearly his breakout year though I’m not one to look too deeply into breakout age, especially for a 22-year old. One thing that stands out is yards per reception. For a guy who really doesn’t have great size or speed, it’s pretty incredible that Henderson never averaged less than 18.7 yards per catch in a given season. The reasoning? He is very elusive after the catch. This is his biggest strength, so let’s dive into that a bit more.
One thing I can’t take away from Henderson is his ability to make people miss. I do question his ability to do it against legitimate NFL competition, but his film does show good elusiveness. He is certainly entertaining to watch in this regard. One of my favorite clips is the one below where he breaks the ankles of two defenders with the same move.
In this GIF, you can see how nasty his cut combined with a head-fake can be. NFL teams will see this and scheme ways to just get Henderson the ball in open space. This ability shows up in the return game as well where he had over 2,000 yards and 3 scores.
Henderson has quick feet that allow him to create separation from defensive backs. His start/stop ability is among the best in the class at the position. You can see that in the GIF below of a slant route he runs. He doesn’t get the target on the play, but the route is a thing of beauty.
This is the type of route-running ability that lends me to think he has a future as a slot receiver in the NFL.
I am curious to see what Henderson’s hand size is, though I believe it’s a more relevant attribute for running backs. Henderson’s hands-catching could use some work, but he tracks the ball very well on deep throws. For a guy with very little ups, he also does a nice job of high-pointing the ball. This is the part of his game I most question will translate to the NFL. The footballs are bigger and the athletes are bigger. Can he stack against NFL corners on jump balls? Can he consistently hands catch at the next level or will he struggle with drops? I’m not sure. Hand-size and vertical leap will help give clues to those answers.
Let’s be very clear about this: Henderson clearly understands how to play wide receiver. He does a lot of things well which hides the fact that he doesn’t possess a top-notch athletic profile. Realistically, I can’t see him blowing up the combine. He won’t have a 40 inch vertical, he won’t run a 4.4 forty. Unfortunately, I really see these limitations as reasons that NFL teams will pass on him in the draft. He has a role in the league, but it’s not a number 1 receiver, and probably not a number 2 either.
The best comparison I can make for Henderson is Jarvis Landry. Like Henderson, Landry also is limited athletically. They both do the little things very well that make them both quality receivers. The differences in their games are that Landry has some of the best hands in the NFL and I saw Henderson double-clutch a lot on film. Landry is also a little bigger and proved his worth at a higher level in college against SEC defenses. Carlos doesn’t quite have the route-running pedigree that Jarvis has.
My biggest issue with Henderson is that he does not have NFL size, leaping ability, nor elite NFL speed. He looked terrific against weak competition in 2016, but I have legitimate concerns about his ability to stack up against NFL competition. You may dominate your flag-football league, but it doesn’t mean you and your 5’7″ 160 lb body will be able to just walk on to a division I NCAA team let alone the NFL. I understand Henderson is better than that, but that’s the type of uphill battle he faces.
At best, I see him as a half-decent return guy, who a team may try and work into a solid slot man. I can’t see his game translating to the outside at the next level. Slot receivers are becoming a larger part of NFL offenses, but those who are mocking Henderson in their top-5 receivers are hyping him up a bit much. Few slot receivers should usurp talented outside receivers, and there are plenty of those outside guys in this draft.