Just the tip of the iceberg: Carlos Henderson’s natural ability still evolving

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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Juice, sizzle and flash are a few of the many words that have been used to describe what the Broncos were looking for in the draft. In reality, what they were seeking was athleticism.

The Broncos certainly found what they were looking for in the third round with the selection of Carlos Henderson from Louisiana Tech. While most players can be easily categorized by a position, it isn’t fair to narrow down Henderson to just one.

On the depth chart, Henderson will officially be listed as a wide receiver. However, he has, and will, line up all over the field including at running back and special teams returner. At his introductory press conference on Saturday, Henderson explained why he truly is a versatile player.

“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.”

During his senior season, Henderson was nothing but spectacular — hauling in 1,535 receiving yards on 82 receptions for an 18.7 yards-per-catch average—earning Offensive Player of the Year and Special Teams Player of the Year in Conference USA.

“I’m still growing as a receiver,” he said. “I’ve been working on everything, especially this offseason and the four years I’ve been at Louisiana Tech playing receiver. As I keep playing receiver, I’m progressively getting better and better.”

The idea that Henderson is far from polished should be daunting for opposing teams and exciting for Denver. As a “developing” receiver, Henderson had a nation-high 19 receiving touchdowns to go along with two kickoff return touchdowns. His big-play ability expanded beyond touchdowns as he led the FBS with eight receptions of 50-plus yards in 2016 as well as forcing 48 missed tackles, nearly twice as much as the next receiver.

“When I catch the ball I don’t even think, it just comes naturally,” Henderson said on what he thinks about when the ball is in his hands. “Everything that I do when I play kick return... Making defenders miss and everything is just natural. I don’t think about it, I just get the ball, and I just run, and everything else just comes natural.”

Henderson’s natural ability will certainly be put to use on the Broncos’ special teams, and he’s more than ready to fill in that role anyway he can.

“Special teams, for me, is just as important as running around and blocking for a running back that’s getting the ball,” he said. “I’m here to help the team, whatever the team wants me to do. I’m a team-player, so I take special teams just as seriously as I take running around and catching the ball… I can be a gunner on special teams; I can play on kickoff, onside kick. Whatever those guys ask me to do I’m going to do it to the best of my ability and 100 percent full effort.”

The nasty mentality that John Elway’s been looking for? Henderson brings that, too.

“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. I’m here to help the team in whatever way I can.”

Whether it be athleticism, attitude or mentality, Henderson provided the athleticism — and word of the offseason “juice” — that the Broncos set out to find.

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