ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Every team in the National Football League is looking for players that are explosive, fast and elusive. However, those characteristics carry little weight if they don’t effectively translate to results on the field.
Fortunately for the Broncos, wide receiver Carlos Henderson has proven that he has these traits and gets the job done, not just consistently, but also eye-popping. Henderson was one of the best, if not the best, playmakers in the nation last year, however, he fell under the national spotlight because he attended Louisiana Tech in Conference USA.
While he may have not been a household name around the country, the Broncos were fully aware of who he was and what he can do, enough so to use their first selection in the third-round to add him to their organization.
“One of the things we really liked about him is he averaged 18.7 yards per catch, which not only did he catch some long balls, he was running after the catch as far as making guys miss,” Broncos’ wide receivers coach Tyke Tolbert said. “He was the best in college football with 48 missed tackle opportunities while he was running with the ball. We're very excited to have an explosive guy join our offense and join the wide receiver corps with the Denver Broncos.”
Not only were his 48 missed tackles the most in the country, he blew the competition out of the water as the next best only had 26. Henderson’s ability to work after the catch translated to points as he led the nation with 19 receiving touchdowns.
“The run after the catch—anytime you can get the ball in a guy’s hands like that, and he’s got the ability to take it to the house, that’s something that you always want,” John Elway said. “It’s not always easy to catch and run with the ball, and that’s what he likes to do. He creates the big plays, and that’s what we really liked about him.”
Along with his 19 receiving touchdowns, Henderson had the fifth-most receiving yards (1,535), twentieth-most receptions (80) and the fourth-most all-purpose yards (190.23). His accomplishments didn’t go overlooked within his conference either as he was named Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year and Special Teams Player of the Year, making him the first player in history to win both.
In his college career, Henderson scored once every 5.25 receptions. In comparison to the three wide receivers taken in the first-round, only one, John Ross, had a higher ratio (5.18). Corey Davis — the first receiver taken at No. 5 overall — scored every 6.37 receptions and Mike Williams — the second receiver selected at No. 7 overall — scored on every 8.43 catches. For the Broncos, Henderson’s big play ability will more often than not come in the slot.
“With Henderson at receiver in the slot, I mean he is a machine after the catch,” head coach Vance Joseph said. “We've added speed.”
As to what makes him so dynamic after the catch, the receiver says the key lies in his diverse football background.
“I played running back my whole life. I just started playing receiver when I got to Louisiana Tech,” he said. “I’ve just been playing receiver for four years, so that explains the run after the catch and everything. In this game, you’ve got to be physical, and you’ve got to be tough. Otherwise, you won’t last in this game of football. That’s why I’m physical and tough.”
Officially listed at 5-foot-11, 199 pounds, Henderson is built more like a prototypical running back than receiver, but has proven that he is more than capable of lining up out wide. In a Mike McCoy offense that is expected to be versatile, Henderson’s diverse background will help him stay on the field.
“I feel like I can play at any position they put me at. I can play anywhere around the field,” Henderson said. “From the beginning, I’m here for the organization. Whatever coach needs me to do, ‘X,’ ‘Y,’ ‘Z,’ or ‘F,’ whatever coach needs me to do I’m going to do to the best of my ability.”
Now, as he joins Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, Henderson will continue to have the opportunity to make plays all over the field. If he translates his college productivity to the next level, he’ll have the opportunity to make himself a household name, too.