2016 NFL Draft: NY Jets should set target on Derrick Henry

Jan 11, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide running back Derrick Henry (2) breaks away from Clemson Tigers safety Jayron Kearse (1) to score a touchdown in the first quarter in the 2016 CFP National Championship at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 11, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide running back Derrick Henry (2) breaks away from Clemson Tigers safety Jayron Kearse (1) to score a touchdown in the first quarter in the 2016 CFP National Championship at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports /

For the NY Jets it doesn’t matter if they use the 20th overall pick, their second round pick or even trade back in the 2016 NFL Draft. They’ve got to find a way to bring Derrick Henry in this spring.

Once upon a yesteryear, the Jets were 4-1 at the beginning of the 2015 season and everything was going well. The Jets were winning ball games, analysts had the Jets going to the NFL Playoffs and Chris Ivory was the catalyst for this offense.

Then all of the sudden the Jets entire season changed on a dime, Ivory got dinged up and the team tumbled to 1-4. Did the Jets bounce back, by way of quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick‘s career resurgence? Yes. But the problem is when the Jets all but abandoned their commitment to the run, that is when it was all over.

When the Jets were on a five-game winning streak, fans and analysts had dreams and aspirations of the playoffs and beyond, everything was great. But when inevitably they faced the harsh winter conditions of wind and cold temperatures which led to errant passes, the Jets were done.

Even after a 58 yard burst by Ivory in the season finale, they refused to go back to him. Why is that? A lack of trust, was Ivory overworked earlier in the season, how could you possibly go away from the strength of this team so early in the season?

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Regardless, the Jets couldn’t bounce back, relying solely on the arm of Fitzpatrick led to disappointment and just missing the postseason for the fifth consecutive season. So how do the Jets bounce back in 2016?

They need an offensive philosophy change, they need something new, innovative and different. That is something that Heisman winning running back Derrick Henry can provide.

Here’s the situation, the Jets don’t have a healthy running back on the roster, technically. Ivory, Bilal Powell and Stevan Ridley are all free agents (and Zac Stacy is recovering from a broken ankle). The other part of the situation is that the Jets are a tad cash-strapped this season, compared to last year.

They don’t have the money to throw around in free agency and they barely have the money to re-sign their own free agents like Damon Harrison, Muhammad Wilkerson and the aforementioned running backs above. So what could be the answer?

Cheap, talented draft picks, that’s what. That is always the answer, the NFL isn’t the same anymore, we have to be honest with ourselves. 2015 in the NFL was not a good year for running backs. We saw a record low seven running backs get over the 1,000+ rushing yard barrier.

Five of the seven running backs were only over that barrier by a 106 yards or less. Which leaves only two backs this season that got over 1,107 yards, not good. So who in their right mind would invest a high draft pick in a running back in an age where running backs are a dime a dozen?

To clarify my dime a dozen comment, running backs can be found in a variety of cheap ways: mid-round picks, late-round picks, even un-drafted free agent running backs have become all the rage. What’s crazy is if you really need a running back that bad, there are at least a couple dozen who are begging for jobs as veteran free agent running backs who would do anything for the veteran minimum contract.

But this guy Henry is different, I’ve watched him all season long and despite my early suspicions that he was just another Trent Richardson (a former Alabama running back) that flopped in the NFL, he proved to me that he can succeed on this level. Henry’s exclamation point was on the biggest stage in college football, the National Championship game, and he delivered.

FINAL STATS: @KingHenry_2 36 rushes. 158 yards. 3 TDs. 1 . #NationalChampionship pic.twitter.com/VbPGEOw4xM

— CollegeFootball 24/7 (@NFL_CFB) January 12, 2016

The Clemson Tigers are no slouch on defense, these were clearly the top two teams in all of college football and he looked like a man amongst boys for most of the night. He’s got the size, power, speed, elusiveness, I mean I could go on and on about all the attributes that makes this guy special.

One of his greatest traits that I’ve seen on tape so far from him, is his vision. An often underrated characteristic when looking at running backs, he finds the hole when it isn’t there. Henry is a patient runner and when the seam opens up, he fires through it like a cannon, full steam ahead.

Now we get to the interesting question, what would it take? Well, we’re a few months out from the draft and the top college running back that is being discussed in circles is Ezekiel Elliott who was a part of my analysis: NY Jets: Top 5 NFL draft prospects to target.

When we get closer I can’t say for sure, but it seems like Henry is going to run through the NFL Combine tests and trials with flying colors and with that his draft stock will assuredly go through the roof. I think the Jets would be very fortunate to land a franchise running back with the 20th overall pick.

I know that this wouldn’t be the most popular move, especially with how people look at running backs. But I really think the Jets can’t go wrong with this pick, this is going to be a guy who could be the next big thing in the NFL for the next decade and will solidify the position for years to come.

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This front office so far in their early tenure haven’t been afraid to buck trends and stray from the norm. General manager Mike Maccagnan and his scouting department need to continue their innovative strategies of improving the talent on this team and they can go a long way in doing that with the selection of Henry.