A major question in Arkansas throughout bowl season is whether or not Hunter Henry stays another season. Does he have anything left to prove, or will the lure of a 1st or 2nd round draft spot be too much. Many analysts have raved about his prototypical NFL body and skill set.
What is the prototypical NFL TE?
The tight end position has evolved into a hybrid player over the last few decades of football. No longer a sixth offensive lineman who is only responsible for the occasional pass route, players at that spot are now asked to be focal points of the air attack. Recently, Arkansas has had some great ones with DJ Williams and Chris Gragg, but neither of those talented players fit the NFL mold for the position (Gragg continues to play for the Buffalo Bills. Williams works for local television affiliates in Arkansas).
Until the emergence of Rob Gronkowski at New England, you would have to look at the now-retired tight ends like Tony Gonzalez, or veteran NFL players such as Jason Witten and Jimmy Graham as the mold for a prototype. Gronkowski has smashed that mold along with everything else, and Henry has the same body type without some of the other Gronk behavior..
Henry and Gronkowski are both in the 6'5 260 range with speed in the 4.6-4.7 range.
Key Aspects of the Current NFL Tight End Prototype:
-Ability to work over the middle from various alignments. Inline, H-back/wing, slot, or split wide
-Enough speed to beat a linebacker in man coverage
-Strong hands, can catch in traffic and fight for jump ball throws
-Blocking in the run game against equal size defensive ends and smaller/quicker linebackers
-Creates personnel mismatches with smaller DBs and slower linebackers. Difficult to defend in red zone situations.
Henry's hands and ability to convert on third downs over the middle certainly have drawn the attention of NFL coaches and GMs.
Another key aspect of Hunter Henry's skill set is the experience in different offensive schemes. In high school at Pulaski Academy, he played in a pass-first spread-out game where he honed his route running and pass catching skills. At Arkansas, the physical multiple TE run game was mixed with Jim Chaney and now Dan Enos' use of standup TEs in the slot or at wide receiver spots. This has NFL offense written all over it. The New England Patriots, Carolina Panthers, and Tennessee Titans all have league leaders at the tight end spot, and would use a draft pick to solidify.
If Hunter Henry throws his name into the hat for the NFL Draft, who could really complain? The 4th-and-25 play some have named the "Henry Heave" that knocked off Ole Miss will be remembered for decades. His consistency as the quarterback's most reliable go-to third and long playmaker was proven over and over again. Yes, there were some shaky spots in run blocking early, but the team as a whole looked that way. The Arkansas offense asked him to block elite SEC defensive ends alone in many cases and he was able to hold ground.
As his junior season went along, the run blocking improved and at the next level that will be a minor accessory to what his job description encompasses. Can Henry become a more refined, less abrasive version of the top pass catching tight end in the league? A thinking man's Rob Gronkowski? The results speak for themselves during his time at Arkansas, and he looks to have all the tools to become a fixture of an NFL offense.