Hunter Henry, a native of Little Rock, Arkansas, was pegged a 4-star recruit coming out of high school and received a total of 23 offers, from colleges across the nation, who were positioning for his signature. Ultimately, his decision to commit to Arkansas likely came as no surprise, to those close to him, as his father played offensive line for the Razorbacks from 1987-1991. As a Razorback, Hunter Henry would go on to play 35 games, during his three-year collegiate career, garnering a collegiate career seasonal average of 39 receptions, 554 yards and 3 touchdowns.
When Henry declared for the 2016 NFL draft, he likely did so knowing that he would be the highest rated tight end out of a fairly thin group. Henry may be leaving Arkansas a year early, but he does so after putting together an impressive junior season, which earned him the John Mackey Award as college football’s highest honors for a tight end.
There may be very few tight end prospects worth considering this year, but Henry is far and away the best of the group. When the time came to review his film, I found that there is a lot to like about his style of play, as well as, his potential to improve with proper coaching. Due to his exceptional athleticism, Henry’s versatility in lining up all over the field will help his draft stock, but that shouldn’t overshadow his effectiveness to work as a blocker. At 6’5”, 250 pounds, Henry certainly has the frame of a prototypical tight end, but will need to bulk up more if he wants to hold his ground against opposing NFL defensive lineman and linebackers. As such, there are few plays when Henry is overpowering defenders, but his technique alone is effective enough towards creating space for the ball carrier or giving the quarterback that extra half second of time to make something happen. Although, Henry’s blocking ability may need more refinement, he was still a very reliable target in the passing game. Impressively, during his junior year, he recorded 51 catches with no drops.
Ultimately, Hunter Henry is a combination of decent speed paired with good route running. When these traits converge successfully, more often than not, the results usually result with him being open, even against initial press coverage. However, I did notice he was routinely brought down shortly after making the catch, although, I am hoping this was more a product of the short to intermediate play calling, rather than a total indictment on his lack of short area burst. Although, Henry made plenty of contested catches with defenders draped on him or in the very near vicinity. At times, Henry looked near impossible to bring down, while other times he would go down on first contact. As with his blocking, Henry’s ability to withstand hits after the catch will likely improve as he adds more muscle at the next level.
If there is one negative about Henry’s stats, it would be his yards after the catch and touchdown total. Henry averaged just 4.7 yards after the catch in 2015. He also wasn’t a consistent red zone target, securing only three touchdowns in 2015 and nine throughout his college career. While this is likely the result of offensive style, it could lead to questions from coaches and GMs who could be concerned with his big play ability and strength.
Henry’s 739 receiving yards were good for the best across the nation in 2015 and his 51 receptions were tied for 4th at the tight end position. While it is very likely Henry will be the first tight end selected in the 2016 NFL draft, there should be low expectations for his initial production and overall fantasy value. As any seasoned fantasy footballer can tell you, tight ends typically have very minimal impact in their rookie years. In fact, Will Tye led all rookie tight ends last year with only 464 receiving yards, while both he and fellow rookie TE Clive Walford shared the lead for touchdowns with three.
When it comes to productivity for a tight end, the strength of the offensive line is equally important and typically tied into the overall production and level of play of the quarterback. As for tight ends, even a player with the talent of Jimmy Graham saw a dip in productivity to start 2015, in this case the lack of efficient offensive line play had a part to play in his decrease, which led to more required in-line blocking. Obviously, his injury didn’t help matters either. Much like Graham, Henry has a special skill set and one that can contribute on any team he goes to, but the hope is that he will be drafted by team with a solid offensive line so that he can be used more in passing situations, which will help to exemplify his talents sooner, rather than later. Like most player’s in this class, Henry will be labeled as “landing spot dependent,” but I believe his situation is a case in being given the opportunity to play, rather than lacking overall talent.
According to current ADP’s, you will likely see Henry drafted in the early 3rd round of dynasty rookie drafts. Even an increase in value after the NFL draft shouldn’t push him much further than the late 2nd round. If you do happen to miss out on Henry in your draft, I wouldn’t recommend buying, at least not immediately, as the investment made will likely make the asking price too high. Have patience, as there should be opportunities to “buy low” if Henry has a slow start to his career, which is the most likely case. The truth is that we may not see what Henry is fully capable of for another 2-3 seasons. During the time it takes for Henry to polish his game, it would be wise to fill your team with other areas of production and by extension, start worthy production tight ends. However, don’t be surprised if Henry eventually becomes a cornerstone to your dynasty team down the road.
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