Every year in the NFL Draft, there’s always a couple of ‘high risk, high reward’ prospects. Sometimes the label of ‘high risk, high reward’ has been created due to injury histories, sometimes legal problems, sometimes maturity issues, and sometimes all of the above. The biggest thing an NFL exec needs to figure out isn’t whether the prospect has the talent. We know he has talent or else no one would even be discussing him.
No, the biggest things an NFL exec needs to figure out are: 1) Do we think the problems will continue into the future? 2) Can we remedy these problems moving forward? And finally: 3) Is the talent presented just too much to pass up?
In the 2014 NFL Draft, perhaps the finest example of a high risk, high reward prospect is Miami OT Seantrel Henderson.
Henderson was literally and figuratively one of the biggest offensive tackle prospects ever coming out of high school. At 6-foot 8, 330-pounds and hailing from national power Cretin-Derham Hall High School (St. Paul, MN), Henderson was billed by recruiting guru Tom Lemming as a blend of Orlando Pace and Jonathan Ogden, arguably the two best tackles to ever play the game. Ranked nearly unanimously as one of the top two recruits of the 2010 class, Henderson chose USC on National Signing Day, before ultimately flip-flopping to Miami due to the new sanctions against the Trojans by the NCAA.
Henderson’s career at Miami certainly hasn’t been what he, or anyone else for that matter, really expected.
First were the multiple reports of Henderson being unhappy with new coach Al Golden in 2011, causing many to wonder if he’d transfer. Then came the suspension during spring ball, and he was suspended again at the start of the 2012 season, all for breaking ‘team rules’. During all of this, Henderson was also undergoing major back problems, the proverbial ‘Achilles heel’ of all big men, and even went under the knife.
Henderson’s problems came to a head last summer when, in between funerals for a close friend and an aunt, he was involved in a car accident, sustaining a concussion (Henderson was driving with an expired license and ran a red light, crashing into a car carrying a family of six).
When Henderson was actually on the field, in between suspensions and injuries, he was good, but not great. He was good enough to be named Freshman All-American and was also named Honorable Mention All-ACC in 2012, but he wasn’t ever the multiple award-winning Hall of Famer he was supposed to be. He was supposed to be the greatest collegiate lineman of all-time, and he ended up being far from that. He’s been a good, not great college player.
So what does all of this mean in terms of pro potential? Henderson still has top-5 ability. He’s still a freak athlete who stands 6-foot 8, 340-pounds and can still eat defensive linemen whole. He’s got the feet, strength and length to be one of the best in the business.
But there are still a lot of questions. Can he keep his constantly fluctuating weight controlled? Can he maintain his conditioning level over the course of an NFL season (and offseason)? Are his off field antics in the past? Will he constantly be battling nagging back problems, and if so, to what degree does it affect his play? Has he finally matured, and can he be an asset in the locker room?
This much is certain; someone will take a chance on him in the 2014 NFL Draft. It probably won’t be day one, or even day two, but he will be drafted. Does he finally live up to the immense hype and become a perennial Pro-Bowler in the NFL? Or is he a guy that was blessed with all of the physical skills, but just couldn’t put it all together, ending up as a wasted draft pick?
High risk, high reward indeed.