Back in 2012, NFL teams selected 250 running backs in the draft, including 27 in the third round. The Los Angeles Rams chose backs twice in the third round, in 2014 it was Tre Mason at number 75 and in 2019 they took Darrell Henderson at number 70.
Mason showed some promise as a rookie, but he struggled with personal problems and only spent two seasons (2014-15) with the Rams. In 2018 he returned with the Canadian Football League and had a solid season. Mason had nearly 1000 yards running and receiving, but suffered an ACL knee injury at the end of the season and would have ended his career.
Henderson was drafted out of Memphis. At the NFL Combine, he ran a 4.49 forty with a stellar 10-yard split of 1.42, a 33.5 “vertical, a 10 ‘1” width and pushed 22 reps on the bench. Slightly underpowered for the lead back role at 5 ‘9 “and 208 pounds, he has good arm length (31”). Henderson got big production numbers in college while playing in a running back rotation. In three years, he scored 4303 yards from scrimmage on 494 touches, an 8.7 yard clip per touch and scored 44 touchdowns.
As a professional, Henderson’s stat totals are modest. Although the NFL production for his touch is solid, injuries have been his downfall ever since he joined the Rams. He was plagued with ailments in his knees, ribs, hands and soft tissue. Currently, Henderson fully participates in the training camp, having been restricted in OTAs.
In three years, Henderson ran 1459 yards on 326 carries, an average of 4.5 yards and 10 touchdowns. As a receiver he added 49 receptions for 372 yards, an average of 7.6 yards and four scores. Overall, he had 1831 yards from scrimmage on 375 touches, 5.0 yards per touch.
After nearly 2 months of absence from action, RB Darrell Henderson made his post-season Super Bowl debut and had an impactful game! Collecting 2 huge first-downs in the air, Henderson had 50 yards in the win. congratulations @ DarrellH8!!! A key contributor! pic.twitter.com/BiV7RXbZ6h
– RAMS ON FILM (@RamsOnFilm) February 15, 2022
2022 is the last year of Henderson’s rookie contact and at the end of the season he will become an unlimited free agent. Will he stay healthy enough to capitalize on his abilities and secure a new contract with the Rams, or will he be allowed to move on after the season? But this article is not about his future with Los Angeles, but about his past. More precisely, did the Rams get an adequate return on their investment?
Obviously, he performed better than Tre Mason at the Rams team level, but what about those other 25 running backs from the third round? How does Henderson’s return on investment compare over 10 years of NFL third round?
First, some accounting to thin the field. Of the 27 running backs enrolled in the third round since 2012, three were enrolled in 2022, so they will not be included. Six others are out of the NFL and left out, honestly, because their numbers aren’t up to par.
Hendo’s numbers: 375 touches / 1831 yards / 5.0 yards per touch / 14 TD / 0 fumble
- Alvin Kamara, New Orleans # 67 2017 1285/7501 / 5.8 / 67/7
- Drake of Kenya, Miami # 73 2016 957/4919 / 5.1 / 36/11
- David Montgomery, Chicago # 73 2019 835/3732 / 4.5 / 24/4
- Devin Singletary, Buffalo # 74 2019 602/3023 / 5.0 / 14/10
- David Johnson, Arizona # 86 2015 1268/6805 / 5.4 / 57/18
- James Conner, Pittsburgh # 105 2017 895/4392 / 4.9 / 44/9
- Damien Harris, New England # 87 2019 366/1816 / 5.0 / 17/3
- Alex Mattison, Minnesota # 102 2019 385/1822 / 4.7 / 8/2
- Royce Freeman, Denver # 71 2018 432/1842 / 4.3 / 9/1
- Duke Johnson, Cleveland # 77 2015 841/5131 / 6.1 / 23/12
- Tevin Coleman, Atlanta # 73 2015 905/4566 / 5.0 / 36/7
- Zack Moss, Buffalo # 86 2020 245/1118 / 4.6 / 10/2
- D’onta Foreman, Houston # 89 2017 258/1226 / 4.8 / 7/5
- Ke’Shawn Vaughn, Tampa Bay # 76 2020 71/349 / 4.9 / 3/1
- CJ Prosise, Seattle # 90 2016 116/694 / 6.0 / 3/2
- Darrynton Evans, Tennessee # 93 2020 20/99 / 5.0 / 1/0
- Trey’s Sermon, San Francisco # 88 2021 44/93 / 4.4 / 1/0
Despite all his injuries, Henderson is expected to be placed at number 7. Kamara and Drake have proven to be stellar value for their respective teams. Montgomery was a solid player in a bad offense. Singletary is option no. 1 in a good team. Johnson and Conner have both had injury problems but overall they are solid professionals. The production numbers for Hendo and Harris are quite similar and for all intents and purposes they both had a rookie redshirt year in 2019. Harris is the Patriots’ first running option, while Henderson is best suited in a pacing rotation role. . Henderson has the advantage as a catcher and in ball safety.
There are two arguments against giving Henderson a solid investment rating. One, it’s not Rams’ # 1 option, many players enlisted in the third round are their team’s go-to guy. And two, the wounds. It’s an overused expression, but “the best skill is availability” fits Hendo.
Hard to refute the injury argument, some guys just can’t resist the physical beating that is the NFL. But Henderson’s ailments aren’t chronic, so I’m not 100% sure some of his damage is just bad luck.
Keep in mind, though, that it doesn’t have to be an advantage to be a value for Los Angeles. Though Henderson missed five regular-season games last season, he gained 864 yards from scrimmage. He can run, capture, and is a voluntary blocker. He fits perfectly as a rolling back, it’s a role he’s been used to since his college years.
In 2022, Henderson is expected to pay just over $ 1.3 million, closing his original contract. Regarding the contract projection for next year, there is a large variance between the highs and lows. The four-year minimum for veterans is just over $ 1 million and at the top, James Conner’s new contract (# 6 in the list above) pays him an average of $ 7 million. If both parties can agree on a $ 2 to 2.5 million deal, bringing it back would be a wise move.
Injuries are the only thing keeping Darrell Henderson from being a great return on investment. His potential is still untapped. Hopefully for the Rams and their fans, Hendo has an injury-free contract year and realizes that potential.