Something every football team needs is an explosive element on their offense. What has been abundantly clear in Philadelphia ever since Desean Jackson left, is that having someone who can pop off a 40 yard play at any moment forces defenses to play an offense differently as a whole. After Jackson left, defenses could tighten up the back end coverage and walk safeties up to stop the intermediate passing game and help in the running game. Even the shift from having Jackson to Maclin as the deep guy was noticeable and, once Maclin was gone; the offense had no juice at all.
The emphasis this offseason has been looking at various weapons, from running backs to receivers, to tight ends who could potentially bring back an element to this offense that scares defenses. After all, a guy who can force defenses to not play so confidently will also improve the play of Zach Ertz and Jordan Matthews because it is less obvious where the ball is going on any play. While it feels like this dead horse is beaten on a near daily basis, the Eagles need to look for a guy who brings out the splash plays.
Carlos Henderson scored 23 touchdowns this season. Two on the ground, two on returns and 19 coming through the air. His nearly effortless speed made him impossible to slow down in 2016 as he went for 1535 receiving yards at 18.7 yards a catch. He had three games where he eclipsed 200 receiving yards this season, one where he went over 300, three games where he had three or more touchdowns, including a game where he had five. If Henderson saw targets during a game, he would completely take it over.
Louisiana Tech would line Carlos Henderson up in the backfield from time to time to use him as a threat to take dump offs for big plays and whew boy can he do some things with the ball in his hands.
He brought that pass back to the opponents 15...
Henderson is not just speed, but his elusiveness with the ball in his hands is something spectacular. He has excellent vision as a ball carrier and he makes changing direction look so damn easy.
He can make players miss in a phone booth like it is not a thing and that ability to catch and run is so incredibly useful at the next level. Henderson makes yards out of absolutely nothing, sometimes. What I love about Henderson the most is that he plays a tough brand of football, especially for a smaller guy. Despite being 5'10" and somewhere hovering around 185 pounds, Henderson has no problem running through guys after he has caught the football and does not mid catching passes with defenders around him.
This shows not only Henderson's ability to catch contested targets, but also how he can catch the ball away from his body and go vertically to get these jump balls. It is rare a player of Henderson's stature is consistently making these "big game" plays.
Even when he knows defenders are right there to make a play, Henderson holds tough to make tough grabs. As Eagles fans, I am positive that after two years, you would love to see a player confidently make these plays. Even if Henderson drops passes, it is rarely because of effort. And yes, he does have some drops.
He does have a tendency to let passes into his frame instead of consistently hands catching. However, this is a fixable trait and because of his consistent willingness to go into tough catch situations confidently, a few drops do not really bother me. It is a technical issue more than anything, which is definitely fixable.
The big concerns with Henderson besides his hands is his size and the learning curve coming from Louisiana Tech to the NFL. Henderson is a bit smaller and though he plays much bigger than listed, he will need to make sure he can stay in that 180 range at 5'10" because the much lighter receivers rarely succeed in the NFL. Coming from the Bulldogs, there will be a significant difference going from the C-USA to the NFL. Now, Henderson dominated whatever competition he faced off against, so that is less of a worry. The biggest bump in the road for him is learning a more complicated route tree. He was used in a pretty elementary way at LA-Tech and though he dominated, offenses will be more difficult to learn in the NFL. This is not a massive concern, especially because Henderson's physical tool box suggests he would be an excellent route runner, but it creates a question of how long would it take for him to learn. After all, you cannot be a consistent threat on athleticism alone in the NFL.
Pro Comparison: Henderson's running back mentality once he gets the football is a lot like Golden Tate. Tate was a more muscled up at 5'10" coming out of Notre Dame, but their physical style at the position, combined with dynamic after the catch skills and speed to burn defenses is very similar.
Henderson is, no doubt, an awesome player. Not only is he a game changing athlete, but his toughness and swagger at the position heighten his game and keep him from letting singular mistakes unravel him. That type of athlete and that type of player is one every football team could use in abundance. While he would take some time to get acclimated to an offensives system, there is no doubt what he could do even if he started in a simplified, limited role where he was schemed touches. He got better and more productive every year he was at LA-Tech and with three different quarterbacks. If he continues that improvement as a receiver at the next level, there is no doubt he can become a household name.
The Eagles, who desperately need a spark, and this bears repeating with every player evaluation, could absolutely use Henderson in their starting lineup. Even with a learning curve, there is not a player on that offense who has the game changing ability he does. On passes, handoffs or kickoffs, Henderson can pick up a big play in a flash. While questions about translatability would make me hesitant to spend a first round pick on him, Henderson would be a great addition any time on the second day of the draft. Get him the ball day one and he will help your team.