By Russ Lande
Approaching National Signing Day in 2010, Seantrel Henderson was considered the pre-eminent offensive lineman and nation's top prospect. Fast-forward to the present and Henderson is likely the most gifted offensive lineman in the 2014 draft, but will probably not be among the first 10 drafted because his production at Miami was widely disappointing. He initially signed with USC, but asked for and received his release after USC was hit with NCAA sanctions; he ended up committing to Miami.
As a true freshman, Henderson started nine games and the future looked bright. He never started that many games in one season the rest of his college career. So, heading to the 2014 NFL combine, which begins this week, Henderson has many questions to answer if he hopes to be selected in the first two rounds.
Breaking down Henderson's film made me want to pull my hair out. When I look around the NFL, there are less than a handful of men with Henderson's size (6-foot-7, 331 pounds), long arms (34 ¼) and athleticism, but his on-field production does not match. He is light on his feet and can bend his knees to sink hips and pass block with base, which makes it easy for him to slide out to pick up explosive edge rushers. Although he almost never punches his man in pass pro, if he can get ahold of the pass rusher before being defeated, he has the size and strength to eliminate his man from the play. While there are concerns about his preparation, he consistently displays natural instincts as a blocker, switching with the guard against defensive line stunts and handing his man off to slide out and pick up an outside delayed blitz. Henderson's biggest issue in pass protection is he stops his feet as soon as he makes or anticipates contact and can be beaten by quick pass rush moves with ease. As a run blocker, he can pin and drive his man down the line and collapse the entire side of the defensive line when he blocks aggressively on side/angle blocks. I was shocked at how quick and nimble he is pulling to get outside on "jailbreak screen" passes or adjusting to block a defender in space. But, too often he fails to eliminate his man because he does not compete hard and he bends, leans and reaches to make contact.
None of the NFL people I spoke with were surprised Henderson admitted his college suspensions were due to failed drug tests for marijuana; this was common knowledge. If a failed drug test were the only issue, teams would not have so many concerns regarding Henderson, but that seems to be the tip of the iceberg. Having arrived at Miami with such fanfare, sources tell me he acted entitled throughout his college career and did not put in the time necessary to become the player he has the talent to be. Interestingly, my sources said they viewed Henderson as a good young man, but were unconvinced he loved football. To the public this may seem a crazy statement, but teams are always leery of players who do not love the game. Once a player enters the league, football becomes a job -- often grueling, physically and mentally -- and players who do not love it do not put in the time in the weight or film room to improve.
During the practices in Mobile, he struggled with consistency. Despite being the most physically gifted offensive lineman, he didn't protect the corner consistently or block with the intensity NFL teams want him to develop. Sources also said his interviews at the Senior Bowl were unimpressive and he struggled to discuss schemes and pass protection assignments. His poor performance at the Senior Bowl makes the combine even more important.
The NFL Network will televise the workouts, where Henderson will likely shine, again highlighting the misconception that the workouts are the primary reason a player's draft stock is affected in Indy. What affects a player's stock most is performances in interviews and how the medical checks come back.
Henderson needs to knock the cover off the ball in the interviews to try and overcome the concerns NFL teams have about his passion to play.
After thorough film study, and speaking to numerous league sources, I am confident saying drafting Henderson before the third day of the draft is a huge risk. Players with his intangibles have failed too often.
Russ Lande writes about college scouting and the NFL draft for Sports on Earth. He is GM jr. scouting and college scouting director for the CFL's Montreal Alouettes and the Big 10 Network. He is a former scout for the Cleveland Browns and former scouting administrator for the St. Louis Rams. You can follow him@RUSSLANDE.