Los Angeles Rams 90-Man Roster Preview: Running Back Darrell Henderson

by Blaine Grisak
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In the third round of the NFL Draft, the Los Angeles Rams shocked media and fans when they selected running back Darrell Henderson out of Memphis. What would that mean for Todd Gurley? Did it mean Gurley’s injury was more serious than originally thought?

The fact of the matter is, the Rams drafted one heck of a playmaker in Henderson. All you have to do is look as far as what head coach Sean McVay said after the draft,

“This had to do with his skill set. He was a player that we identified as a unique playmaker. He can obviously so some things as a runner, but the versatility that he provides and some of the things that he can do are what was so enticing about him for us.”

Henderson averaged 8.9 yards per carry and his 6.2 yards after contact per attempt led all running backs in this past year’s draft. The Memphis running back excelled in running zone schemes and will be a perfect compliment to Gurley.

College Career

Henderson was an Associated Press first-team All-American in 2018, finishing second in the country with 1,909 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns on only 214 carries. In games against Navy and Georgia State he became the second player in program history to record back-to-back 200-yard rushing games.

His stellar junior season just added to what was already a stellar college career at Memphis in which he made his way into the program record books. In 35 career games with the Tigers, Henderson stands as the second-leading rusher in Memphis history (3,082 career rushing yards) and his 31 rushing touchdowns are third in school history. Throughout his career at Memphis he proved his dual threat capability, tallying 4,302 career all-purpose yards.

Henderson dominated in the AAC and because of that he was dropped to the third round due to the level of opponents he played on a weekly basis. The Rams thought he was “the most dangerous offensive player in the draft,” and potentially got a steal on day two.

Roster Battle

When it comes to the running back position on the Rams’ roster, it’s always going to be Todd Gurley and everyone else. Henderson will look to compete with Malcolm Brown for the primary backup role. The Rams also drafted John Kelly out of Tennessee last season in the sixth round.

Henderson should beat out Kelly, however, Brown has been one of the most consistent backup running backs in the NFL, therefore it won’t be easy to take away his playing time. However, Brown doesn’t hold Henderson’s skillset. The duo will most likely split backup time as the Rams look to preserve Gurley.

Three Plays on Tape

When it comes to Darrell Henderson, it’s plays like the one above that will catch your eye. Plays that should be a loss or a short gain, end up going for 40+. His ability to breakaway and create explosive plays was unmatched in last year’s draft.

However, while Henderson is great on the ground, plays like this should look familiar. The Rams run a lot of screens with Gurley and it’s obvious to see that Henderson has that same ability to make the catch and turn upfield.

This final play just shows his ability to run through contact. While seen as a smaller, elusive back, Henderson is not afraid of contact. There’s a reason he led last year’s draft class in that category. He’s not going to plow through linebackers like Marshawn Lynch, but he won’t go down without a fight.

Biggest Question

The biggest question for Henderson headed into his rookie season is how prominent of a role will he have in the Rams offense. McVay has said the team does plan to scale back on Gurley’s touches, but just how much of that will turn into production for Henderson?

Will it be 70-30? 65-35? 80-20? Nobody really knows.

There is no doubt that he has the talent and ability, but is he going to be someone that McVay can trust in the offense. It was a big issue last season when both Gurley and Brown went down with an injury and why the team signed CJ Anderson.

The Rams and McVay hope things will be different with their third-round selection.

2019 Outlook and Role

Henderson obviously will not start in 2019, however, the expectation should be that he takes over the No. 2 running back role. If he ends up with 50 carries and 20 catches, that should be seen as a good year for the rookie running back.

McVay has seemed to want this type of player in his offense after they went out and signed Lance Dunbar and then drafted John Kelly last season. This year with the injury to Gurley, the Rams seemed to make a concerted effort to get that player for the offense. Henderson won’t start, but McVay should have a role planned out for him.

Chances of Making Final Roster

This was one of the most dangerous playmakers in the draft. and the Rams invested a third-round selections in him. Even if he starts the season behind Brown, Henderson should be a lock to make the final-53.

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