Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
2. Hunter Henry, Tight end, Arkansas
Age as a rookie: 22 (Birthday in December)
Listed height, weight: 6-foot-5, 253 pounds
Where He Wins: The most complete tight end in college football has played in Arkansas the last few years. Hunter Henry has dominated as a lead blocker from the backfield and inline, helping pave the way for a Razorbacks offense that has averaged 2,550 rushing yards each of the last three years. Henry has been an important cog in the passing game as well, seeing his receiving stats climb dramatically every year. The junior is a versatile player who can contribute in all phases and is widely respected in scouting circles for his maturity.
Some encouraging noise has been made of the New Orleans Saints’ use of tight ends on offense. Benjamin Watson (on pace for 66 catches and 790 yards) has seen a career revival in 2015. Supporting cast Josh Hill and Michael Hoomanawanui have combined for some solid production, going on pace for 26 catches and 153 yards. The trio is on pace for a total of ten touchdowns between them.
All three tight ends on the Saints roster are free agents in the spring, so it’s not totally likely they will all return. Henry would be a great young, athletic addition to the group or a replacement for anyone who is not retained. He would give Drew Brees (or whoever is quarterbacking the Saints in 2016) a tall, big-bodied receiving target that can stay on the field in running downs as a capable blocker.
Pro Comparison: Jason Witten. “Father Time is undefeated,” muses an older Sylvester Stallone in the terrific 2015 blockbuster Creed (really, go see it). Age, wear, tear, Brandon Weeden and Matt Cassel have stripped much of Witten’s playmaking ability, but he’s still got a legacy as one of the most complete tight ends of all time. Witten has notched 1,000+ catches in his career and made more than a few defenders leery of lining up against him as an inline blocker. Henry’s natural-catching ability and streak of physicality as a blocker brings to mind no other player as much as Witten. Witten was a third-round selection by the Dallas Cowboys in 2003 and provides a terrific ceiling for Henry to aspire to at the next level.
Next: 3. Who can help the Saints defend the pass?