Is Alabama RB Derrick Henry a Good Fit for Titans?

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INDIANAPOLIS — **Listen to Titans general manager Jon Robinson talk, and it almost sounds like he's describing Alabama's Derrick Henry when discussing what he's looking for in a running back.

But the more Robinson talked on the subject here at the NFL Combine, the more he opened up other possibilities as well.

"We want a strong, physical runner,'' Robinson said. "He has to be able to get tough yards when we hand him the ball. And when I say strong, that doesn't mean he has to weigh 250 pounds. There's backs in this league that are maybe smaller in stature, but they are explosive and powerful backs. So when you do hand them the ball they can make yards. They have to be able to run in between the tackles and grind out plays that way.

"There's good backs in this draft, there's varying degrees of size. Henry was 247 (pounds when he weighed in), a big guy, and then there's some guys smaller and quicker in stature. Not that Henry is not quick, but from a stature standpoint they are different guys."

Henry was a beast at Alabama. He ran for an SEC-record 2,219 yards and 28 touchdowns, averaging 5.6 yards per carry, and not only won the Heisman Trophy, but the Maxwell Award, the Walter Camp Player of the Year award and the Doak Walker Award as the country's top running back as well.

Here at the NFL Combine, however, he regards himself as the underdog.

Ohio State's Ezekiel Elliott is considered the top running back in the draft.

"You've just got to let it fuel you," Henry said.  "The only thing you can worry about is what you can control.

"What do I say to people (who believe that)? I can't worry about that. All I can worry about is what I can control and go out there and compete. That's the opinion of other people, but I have to go out and compete."

NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock is one of those who believes Elliott is a better draft prospect.

"I think the biggest difference is lateral quickness and burst. Ezekiel Elliott is just about as fast sideways as he is forward,'' Mayock said. "Ezekiel Elliott is probably going to run 4.45 at 225 pounds, so he's got great speed, but his lateral, jump cuts, acceleration, burst, lower body toughness, all those things add up to me to first round.

"When you look at Henry, he needs a little more -- he's a tall, high-cut, long-legged back which is atypical, and those backs struggle in the NFL just because there's a lot more vertical mass to aim at.

"Now, having said that, I really like the kid. When I say he's an early second-round pick, that means a lot to me. I value a second-round running back. I think he can carry the ball 25 times a game. I think he gets stronger as the game goes on, and I think his feet aren't the same as Elliott, I think he's got good feet and he's difficult to tackle. So I value him."

The Titans need help at the running back position.

Antonio Andrews led the team in rushing in 2015, but he had just 520 yards. Behind him, Dexter McCluster (247), Bishop Sankey (193) and David Cobb (146) were the team's most productive backs. But quarterback Marcus Mariota was second on the team with 252 rushing yards.

"We have to get good production out of the backs. You talk about helping out Marcus, and part of helping out the quarterback is being able to run the football to get us in second-medium and third-short situations, where there's still the threat of running the football,'' Robinson said. "So then we can still run play action or whatever Coach (Mike) Mularkey schemes up there. But Cobb, Andrews, Bishop Sankey, McCluster, all those guys, we want production out of our backs for sure."

Henry hopes to convince teams at the NFL Combine he's worthy.

After the first overall pick, the Titans have the 33rd overall pick (second round).

"You've got to take it for what it's worth," Henry said of the diminished value of running backs. "You've got to make the teams want to draft you. It's all on the player now, at least at running back, and I can accept that. I'm ready to get after it."

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