Memphis has had an interesting off-season. It is one that they aren’t so accustomed to. Only three players since 2000 have elected to give up remaining eligibility. This year, that number bumped up to five. Two juniors, in Darrell Henderson and Tony Pollard, decided to forego their senior years and declare for the 2019 NFL Draft—something that has not been seen since former Tiger quarterback, Paxton Lynch, was selected in the first round of the 2016 draft. Since then, kicker Jake Elliott was the lone draftee out of Memphis in 2017, and wide receiver Anthony Miller & linebacker Genard Avery were drafted last year.
Let’s take a look at what this year may have in store for the 2019 NFL Draft prospects out of Memphis.
RB Darrell Henderson (5’8”, 208 lbs.)
Combine - 40: 4.49, Bench: 22, Vert: 33.5”, Broad: 121.0”, 20-yard shuttle: DNP, 3-cone: DNP
Pro Day - 40: DNP, Bench: DNP, Vert: 33.0”, Broad: DNP, 20-yard shuttle: 4.41, 3-cone: 7.03
NFL Comparison: Aaron Jones, Packers
Projection: 2nd-3rd round
2018 Statistics: Rushing - 214 attempts, 1,909 yards, 22 TD’s, Receiving - 19 receptions, 295 yards, 3 TD’s
To no ones chagrin, Henderson declared for the NFL Draft in December. He left as the 2nd leading rusher in Memphis history, trailing DeAngelo Williams. That being said, Henderson may have been more productive than Williams. Only Memphians know how sacrilegious that may sound, but the proof, as they say, is in the pudding. Henderson averaged 8.9 yards per carry in both 2017 & 2018 -- to contrast, in Williams’ most productive seasons, 2004 & 2005, he averaged 6.2 & 6.3, respectively. It doesn’t stop there, though. Henderson has homerun capabilities. He had 19 plays of 30+ yards from scrimmage, and 22 TD’s.
Strengths: Strinkingly fast--Henderson is very good in open space, and has elite play speed. After contact, Henderson does well. He ranked best among draft-eligible running backs since 2014, per Pro Football Focus (PFF).
Weaknesses: Does not have the capability of an every down back as of right now, and sometimes has trouble catching the ball out of the backfield. Henderson runs rather upright and narrow, causing issues with starting runs. It is sometimes all-or-nothing as he gets most of his yards on only a few carries. Henderson is a one-track runner, and tends to react based off of what has been set up for him already, not what is developing.
One Liner: A capable running back with elite playspeed.
RB/WR/KR Tony Pollard (6’0”, 210 lbs.)
Combine - 40: 4.52, Bench: 13, Vert: 35.0”, Broad: 121.0”, 20-yard-shuttle: DNP, 3-cone: DNP
Pro Day - 40: 4.41, Bench: 18, Vert: 36.5”, Broad: 125.0”, 20-yard shuttle: 4.37, 3-cone: 7.0
NFL Comparison: Nyheim Hines, Colts
Projection: 6th-7th round
2018 Statistics: Rushing - 78 attempts, 552 yards, 6 TD’s, Receiving - 39 receptions, 458 yards, 3 TD’s
Quite the opposite of Henderson, Tony Pollard caught many Memphis fans by surprise with his declaration for the NFL Draft in January. However, it made sense for the redshirt junior, who graduated in December. There were always questions about how Pollard should be used within an offense, and his college production was certainly hurt by these questions. His special teams ability was historical at Memphis, as he is tied for the all-time NCAA mark in kickoff return touchdowns (7).
Strengths: Pollard is an explosive athlete with a big body that is incredible in open space. He is a swiss-army knife -- he has done just about everything for the Tigers. He played wide receiver, running back, and various special teams roles. Pollard has the versatility to split out as well as do some great things out of the backfield, especially in a zone-heavy scheme.
Weaknesses: Unproven ability to run between the tackles, yet is not fully developed as a wide receiver. Pollard takes some time to gather and cut, and isn’t all that twitchy of an athlete. His hands are inconsistent at times.
One Liner: Versatile 3rd down back with special teams capability.
OG/C Trevon Tate (6’2”, 293 lbs.)
Combine - 40: DNP, Bench: 22, Vert: DNP, Broad: DNP, 20-yard shuttle: DNP, 3-cone: DNP
Pro Day - 40: 5.26, Bench: DNP, Vert: 28.5”, Broad: 108.0”, 20-yard shuttle: 4.80, 3-cone: 7.73
NFL Comparison: Demetrius Rhaney, Rams/Redskins/AAF
Projection: 7th round - Priority Free Agent
Trevon Tate was a staple for the Memphis offensive line from 2014 to 2018. He finished up with 46 starts in 50 opportunities for the Tigers, and was part of an offensive line that kept the quarterback relatively clean—only giving up 24 sacks in 14 games. That being said, Tate played left tackle at Memphis, yet most certainly translates into a guard or center in the NFL.
Strengths: Tate is athletic and twitchy to his spot. He plays with strength and power at the point of attack. Along with possessing great trunk strength, he generates power though his hips, which bend very well. Also, Tate is very good in open space, and can close off space when dealing with better athletes.
Weaknesses: Tate translates to a position that he has not played yet. He is generally undersized, and his footwork in pass protection can get sloppy at times, leaving him susceptible to the bull rush and inside move. Hands are inconsistent, they are often late and clamp-like.
One Liner: A versatile interior line prospect with above-average athleticism.
Other Tigers to Watch
Inside Linebacker Curtis Akins stole the show at Memphis Pro Day. The 6-foot, 235 lb. Akins ran a 4.57 40, and has moved himself into a similar situation as Tate. Obviously, Akins has an incredible amount of production, but on a lackluster defense. Word is that he could sneak into the seventh round. However, the general consensus is that he will be a priority free agent, as he did not get the chance to prove his ability at the combine and all-star games like his teammates did.
Defensive Back Tito Windham had a solid Pro Day, logging a 4.56 40. However, Windham is an undersized cornerback at 5’9”, 178 lbs. That didn’t stop him from producing. Windham had 51 tackles in 2018 to go along with 5 pass break-ups, and 2 interceptions. He is a guy that could get a chance as an undrafted free agent, whether it be a tryout or a camp invitation.