Round 3 – Memphis RB Darrell Henderson
5-8, 208 – Junior
Previous Pick: Western Illinois DT Khalen Saunders
Henderson was featured in PewterReport.com’s initial 2019 Bucs’ Mock Draft and he makes a return appearance in the third version of the mock draft. Running back remains a need because the Buccaneers had one of the worst running games in the league last year with Peyton Barber as the team’s only reliable ballcarrier, rushing for a career high 871 yards and five touchdowns while averaging only 3.7 yards per carry. Barber only signed a one-year deal worth just over $2.1 million this offseason and the team needs longevity at the position.
Tampa Bay drafted Ronald Jones II from USC in the second round last year to bring speed and playmaking to the running back position, but he was a huge disappointment in rushing for just 44 yards and one touchdown in 23 carries (1.9 avg.) and seven catches for 33 yards (4.7 avg.) with several dropped passes. The Bucs signed former Arizona rusher Andre Ellington just in case Jones is a bust.
Despite the coaching change, Bucs general manager Jason Licht would be foolish to automatically assume that Jones will develop under Bruce Arians and he needs to act as if Jones will be a bust and draft another running back as insurance policy and for competition. Henderson has been one of the most explosive players in college football over the past two years in averaging a ridiculous 8.9 yards per carry while combining to rush for 3,063 and 31 touchdowns from 2017-18, including a career-high 1,909 yards and 22 touchdowns on 214 carries last year.
Henderson’s game is reminiscent of that of former Memphis standout DeAngelo Williams, who was a thorn in Tampa Bay’s side for years as a Carolina Panther. Henderson had 16 100-yard rushing games in his Tigers career, including three 200-yard performances and another 199-yard effort during his junior season. Henderson has game-breaking speed, evidenced by his 16 carries of 40 yards or more – 10 of which were at least 60 yards or longer. Henderson ran a 4.49 at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis and showed good explosion in the broad jump at 10-foot, 1-inch, and good strength with 22 reps of 225 pounds in the bench press.
“He’s got great vision and the ability to make you miss, and he’s got enough power to run through you as well,” UCF coach Josh Heupel told the Orlando Sentinel. “He’s electric when he gets into space and can turn a 5-yard gain into a big one real quick.”
Heupel is glad that Henderson is taking his act to the next level. The Tigers star rushed for 109 yards and a touchdown in the 2017 conference championship game, which UCF won 62-55 in double overtime, and then followed that up with 199 yards and a touchdown in the rematch during the 2018 regular season, a 31-30 comeback win by the Knights, and 210 yards rushing and three touchdowns in a 56-41 victory over the Tigers in the 2018 conference championship game, which was another comeback win for UCF. Henderson ripped off touchdown runs of 62 yards, 12 yards and 82 yards while rushing for over 200 yards and even threw a touchdown pass in the first half in helping Memphis build a 38-21 lead at halftime before UCF came storming back in the second half.
Despite being on the cusp of a 2,000-yard rushing season, Henderson sat out Memphis’ bowl game to prepare for the NFL Draft. He’s projected as a second- or third-round pick mainly due to his 5-foot-8, 208-pound size, but according to Pro Football Focus, Henderson forced 53 missed tackles and racked up 1,151 yards after contact, which was the most in the FBS last year and speaks to his toughness, contact balance and elusiveness.
Henderson’s Memphis Career Rushing Stats
2016: 87 carries for 482 yards (5.5 avg.) with 5 TDs and a long of 45 yards
2017: 130 carries for 1,154 yards (8.9 avg.) with 9 TDs and a long of 82 yards
2018: 214 carries for 1,909 yards (8.9 avg.) with 22 TDs and a long of 82 yards
Memphis Career Receiving Stats
2016: 20 receptions for 237 yards (11.9 avg.) with 3 TDs and a long of 46 yards
2017: 24 receptions for 226 yards (9.4 avg.) with 2 TDs and a long of 45 yards
2018: 19 receptions for 295 yards (15.5 avg.) with 3 TDs and a long of 72 yards
Memphis Career Kick Return Stats
2016: 2 returns for 113 yards (56.5 avg.) with 1 TD and a long of 99 yards
2017: 13 returns for 250 yards (19.2 avg.) with a long of 64 yards
2018: 10 returns for 124 yards (12.4 avg.) and a long of 20 yards
Henderson often split carries with Patrick Taylor, Jr. and Tony Pollard and finished with just eight games with 15 or more carries in his Memphis career, including just five with more than 20 carries. The fact that he didn’t carry the workload with Tigers will cause NFL scouts to question whether he can do that at the next level.
What appeals to Tampa Bay is the fact that Henderson does run with speed and toughness, and also has great hands. He had at least 19 catches in all three seasons at Memphis, totaling 63 receptions for 758 yards (12 avg.) and eight touchdowns. Henderson had five catches that covered 40 yards or more for the Tigers in his three years in Memphis.
Another plus is that Henderson is a sure-handed offensive weapon with just three fumbles in his 494 offensive touches in his Memphis career. Henderson would also bring kick return experience to Tampa Bay’s special teams and had a 99-yard touchdown as a freshman. The Bucs had a formal interview with Henderson at the NFL Scouting Combine and seem to really like him.
Click below to view Tampa Bay’s fourth-round pick in 2019.