For the last four years, the Los Angeles Rams offense has essentially gone through Todd Gurley. Since he came into the league in 2015, he has 1,229 touches, which is 150 more than any other player in the NFL.
That trend is bound to change next season with Darrell Henderson joining the backfield. The Rams moved up 24 spots to select Henderson 70th overall on Friday night in the draft, bringing an explosive weapon to Los Angeles.
Not only did he celebrate his 36th birthday last week, the former Tigers running back held his third annual charity cornhole tournament on Tiger Lane Saturday. He spent the night with the Memphis 901 FC, smashing the guitar in the team’s pregame tradition.
But the 11-year NFL veteran was most proud to welcome two former Tigers to the league in Darrell Henderson and Tony Pollard, who were drafted this weekend.
The Rams’ flurry of early trades continued at No. 70, where the defending NFC Champs swapped their No. 94 and No. 99 picks for Tampa Bay’s early third round position.
The club added a running back to its roster in former Memphis standout Darrell Henderson with the pick. Henderson became the first unanimous All-American in school history following his final season at Memphis. The young running back finished his college career taking 431 carries for 3,545 yards 36 touchdowns, averaging 8.2 yards per carry. He grabbed eight touchdowns 38 games played for the Tigers.
“I’m just going to go there and do what I’m supposed to do and work hard,” Henderson said on Friday night. “It’s always good to have somebody to learn from, so I’m going to learn from [RB] Todd Gurley, make sure that I’m doing my job…”
Henderson will join Gurley, and a running backs room crowded with Malcolm Brown, Justin Davis, and last year’s running back draftee John Kelly in his first season as a pro.
Nine names later, the Rams further addressed the secondary, taking cornerback David Long out of the University of Michigan.
The club’s No. 79 draft pick earned First Team All-Big Ten honors following his junior season. Long boasts three interceptions, 17 passes defensed, two tackles for loss, and 38 tackles in two full seasons in a starting role.
The former Wolverine will have the unique chance to play alongside a couple of veteran All-Pros in corners Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters.
“[There’s] a lot of experience to be able to pick up from those guys and just do whatever they’ve been doing to stay in the league,” Long said. “A lot of those guys have successful careers, Aqib Talib has played a really long time, lengthy career, so he knows what it takes. And Marcus Peters and [CB Nickell Robey-Coleman], those guys have made plays at that level.”
Long joins the Rams’ No. 61-overall selection, safety Taylor Rapp to become the first pair of defensive backs drafted by the Rams since the 2014 season.
Darrell Henderson had no problem evading and running away from tacklers, so it’s no surprise the former Memphis running back is doing the same with NFL Draft chatter.
“I try to tone all of that out. I’m hearing different things but nobody ever knows but me, my agent and the GMs in the NFL,” Henderson said. “I just let them talk and I stay on my path.”
Henderson is expected to continue the streak of at least one Memphis player drafted since 2014. Former backfield mate Tony Pollard is also expected to be taken, which would give the Tigers multiple draft picks in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1993-94
NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah has Henderson ranked the No. 84 prospect in the draft while The Athletic’s Dane Brugler has him ranked at No. 80. Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller called Henderson the best big-play threat back in the 2019 class and the sixth-best running back in the draft.
ESPN draft analysts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay expect Henderson to go in the third round and agreed that Henderson’s speed and versatility make him valuable in the NFL as a complementary running back.