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Stop That Hype Train! Darrell Henderson

Rookie running back Darrell Henderson was a force to be reckoned with during his career at Memphis. He holds the NCAA Division I record for yards per rush with 8.2. You could argue that he's literally the most dangerous ball-carrier in NCAA history and the numbers back it up. It wasn't like he was doing this in a limited sample size either. Henderson ran for over 1,900 yards and had 22 touchdowns last season. He finished second in multiple major career rushing stats for the Tigers, only trailing DeAngelo Williams.

What better offense for Henderson to join in the NFL than the Los Angeles Rams? Sean McVay's high-powered offense has taken the league by storm ever since he joined the organization in 2017. The Rams produced four top-end players at their positions last year when Cooper Kupp was healthy. Now they add Henderson, one of college football's most explosive running backs ever, to the mix. Shouldn't Henderson be a home-run pick in the eighth-round?

Maybe, if he were the team's best running back. But he's currently the third-string running back for the Rams. He's also sitting behind the reigning NFL Offensive Player of the Year and a seasoned trusted backup in Todd Gurley and Malcolm Brown.

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Darrell Henderson (RB, LAR) ADP: 90 RB: 37

Let's just go through every reason somebody would give when drafting Darrell Henderson in the eighth round.

"Todd Gurley won't be able to stay healthy" Gurley's knee issues have been well-documented over the past few months and it's been confirmed he's dealing with arthritis in his knee. Arthritis is a complicated issue to deal with. It's also not something that just happens overnight. You don't twist your knee the wrong way and suddenly have arthritis.

Gurley has likely been dealing with the issue for a while now. In fact, he even stated that he was dealing with a painful knee injury after Week 1. People also forget that Gurley did actually play in the Rams playoff run, and even ran for over 100 yards against Dallas. The injury might have hampered him a bit in the team's playoff run, but mental mistakes and the emergence of CJ Anderson were also huge factors in Gurley's limited playing time and touches in the NFC Championship and Super Bowl.

The Rams and Gurley have had months to come up with the best way to approach the situation. They'll have a plan to keep Gurley on the field this year. Is he going to play 16 games? I wouldn't bet on him, but I'd be willing to bank on him playing at least 12 barring an unrelated injury.

Note: I went in-depth on this issue and more in my Todd Gurley outlook earlier in the summer. Read it here

"Gurley's workload will be decreased" This one is true. Rams beat writer Vincent Bonsignore anticipates Gurley receiving 75-80% of the offensive snaps in Los Angeles. For context, Gurley saw just over 86% of snaps last year. So there will be some opportunity for the next man up to put up some numbers.

"Darrell Henderson is the next man up behind Gurley" He isn't. That would be Malcolm Brown. The Rams retained the free-agent running back by matching an offer sheet made by Detroit this spring, so they still think highly of him. The only reason the Rams signed CJ Anderson last season is because Brown was placed on the IR with a clavicle injury after Week 13.

The Rams haven't been playing most of their starters or key role players this preseason. Brown has been one of those guys. Why sit a backup running back in the preseason if you don't expect to rely on him in the season? Brown has the backup spot locked up for the time being.

"You don't draft a running back so high if you don't plan on using him" This is a fair point to raise, but the Rams haven't been afraid to ease-in their rookies under Sean McVay. Last year's third-round pick, OL Joseph Noteboom, barely played any meaningful snaps. The Rams selected three players in the third round this year: Henderson, CB David Long, and OL Bobby Evans. Evans and Long aren't going to play much barring injuries. I'd be surprised if Henderson played as little as those two will, but I also don't expect him to play a major role if Gurley remains on the field.

"Henderson is a great prospect and is oozing potential" You're damn right he is. So is D.K. Metcalf. Are you touching D.K. Metcalf in the eighth round?

Henderson is an explosive runner. Even in the limited-role, I anticipate him having this year, I'm willing to bet he still breaks off a few incredible runs here and there. But he's a third-string running back on a win-now team. His preseason performance didn't help him move up the depth chart either. Outside of one screen pass he was able to break through on, Henderson did next to nothing and failed to even hit 3 yards per carry in the team's first three preseason games.

Henderson should carve out a small role for himself in this offense. If Gurley is rested for a game or two, he'll likely split touches with Brown and might do well in that spot. He might be a very good running back in this league. He probably isn't going to be this year. Henderson is the type of guy you take a flier on near the end of the draft. In the eighth round? I'm more likely to take a flier from a con-artist in Times Square. If you want to draft Todd Gurley's backup, Brown is currently being drafted in the 13th round.




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