As we delve into the Pittsburgh Steelers offseason, our attention has now shifted to the 2016 NFL Draft as it relates to the prospects. From now until the draft takes place, we hope to profile as many draft prospects as we possibly can for you. Most of these player profiles will be centered around prospects the Steelers are likely to have interest in.
Being as the Steelers might have an interest in drafting another tight end this year, we will kick this year’s draft profiles off with a look at Arkansas’s Hunter Henry.
#84 – Hunter Henry/TE Arkansas: 6’5 253
– Has size and build of all-around tight end
– Adequate top-end speed and able to get free releases off of line
– Understands defenses and has ability to find soft areas of zones
– Used a lot as end-of-line blocker out of three-point stance
– Nice body control and can make combative catches
– Above average run blocker who understands angles
– Shows competency as a pass blocker
– Quick to the tuck as a receiver
– Did line up in the slot some
– Faced quality competition in SEC
– Doesn’t always pluck the ball out of air
– Has a tendency to slide off of blocks too easily
– Will lunge occasionally
– Needs to play to the whistle every down
– Could use more lower body strength
– Father played tackle for Arkansas from 1988-1991
– 2015 John Mackey Award winner
– Consensus first team All-American (AFCA, AP, TSN, WC)
– Reportedly no drops in 2015
– Turned 21 in December
– Declared for draft as an underclassmen
– Production increased every season
Over the course of the three games that I watched of Henry, he proved to be more than an adequate run blocker on the end of the line of scrimmage. Below on this trap play against Alabama, Henry fires off of the left end of the line in order to hit linebacker Reggie Ragland. Great block.
Generally, Henry is pretty solid in pass protection but as you can see in this clip below against Alabama, he allows linebacker Dillon Lee get his arms extended inside and is then pulled forward. this results in a quarterback hit.
While the quarterback never gets the ball out to Henry on this play, the tight end shows the presence of mind to break his out route up the field during a scramble. He was open had the quarterback seen him and gotten rid of the football.
From the right side of the line, Henry effectively down-blocks Alabama defensive lineman Jarran Reed and even pushes him back.
A good example here of Henry finding work at the second level after a combo block from the right side. he seals the linebacker off to the inside and running back has a nice lane for good yardage.
While this reception was wiped out by offsetting penalties, here’s a good shot of Henry getting loose off of the line on an underneath mesh concept. He’s quick to the tuck and secures the football underneath his outside arm and away from the defender.
Here, on the right side of the line, Henry sells the run block off of a play-action and then releases out into the flat for the easy misdirection reception. Once again, he gets himself going north and south quickly and has the football underneath the outside arm.
Here, Henry is lined up in the slot and once the defensive back across from him blitzes, he runs an in-breaking route between the second and third levels of the zone defense. Nice hands and a quick tuck allows Henry to get going up the field in a hurry.
Henry can make combative catches and you’ll see that here at the end of this play that features him running across the field before breaking his route up the far sideline. he’s able to use his big frame to somewhat shield off the late attempt of a pass breakup.
Summary: In the age of the college spread offenses, it’s rare that you’ll find a well-rounded tight end such as Henry. While he was used mostly on the end of the line of scrimmage, he lined up in the slot quite a bit in the three games that watched. While not blazing fast, Henry does get up the field in a hurry and without too much wasted motion. While his run blocking certainly stands to improve at the NFL level, he has a lot to work with in that phase of his game thanks to his ideal size and frame along with his willingness. While he doesn’t take plays off, you would like to see him finish some plays better.
Due to being limited to mostly live television angles, it’s hard to gauge the route running ability of Henry along with his ability to run the complete tree. He can certainly run away from linebackers and safeties both vertically and horizontally, however. While Henry is the first draft eligible tight end that I have taken an extensive look at, it’s hard to imagine that any of the others will be as well-rounded as he is. For that reason, he likely should be considered the top tight end in this year’s class and will thus likely be selected in the bottom half of the first round or early in the second round at the latest.
Projection: 1st Round