Arkansas' Hunter Henry knows the NFL has been more of a pass-heavy league in recent seasons, but his experience both catching and blocking, he believes, sets him apart.*
If you're a tight end in a Bret Bielema offense, you go in knowing you're going to have to be a solid blocker in the run game before earning your keep as a pass catcher.
Hunter Henry was no exception to this rule. But even in a run-first offense, Bielema knew what a special talent he had in Henry, who had 409 and 513 yards receiving in his first two seasons with Arkansas, respectively.
But Henry put it all together last season, catching 51 passes for 739 yards with three touchdowns and being named the John Mackey Award as the nation's top tight end. The consensus first-team All-American is "by far, the premier tight end in the 2016 draft," according to his NFL.com draft profile.
And with the various ways NFL teams are utilizing tight ends these days, Henry can't help but be excited about his professional prospects.
"Just watching playoff football, all those teams that were in the playoffs, the tight end was a big part of it," Henry told reporters at the NFL Combine. "It's an exciting to see, especially for someone in my position, to see how things are trending, in our way. I'm just excited for the opportunity."
But back to that whole blocking aspect for a minute. Henry's ability to move around the defenders in front of him was a major reason why running back Alex Collins was able to put up monster numbers in 2015, setting a school record with 20 rushing touchdowns and putting up a school-record-tying 10 100-yard rushing games (tying Darren McFadden).
So while Henry certainly seems to fit in to any NFL team's offense as a pass catcher, he greedily wants to be the field for any other situation, as well.
"I believe I bring something that's different than a lot of guys would bring," he said. "This versatility,
I'm going to be able to play every down. That's something I believe. I'm going to be able to stay on the field consistently. I'm not just a first down guy. I'm not just a third down guy. I can play all three downs. It's a big part of the NFL. That's why I believe I'm worthy."
Most NFL scouts would likely agree with Henry's self-assessment. He doesn't have much in the way of listed weaknesses in his NFL.com draft profile, perhaps other than cleaning up the three holding penalties called on him last year.
"Henry is a big body with the athleticism to get open, the hands to finish catches in traffic and the blocking ability to help give a running game the additional kick it might be missing on the edge," his profile reads. "Henry should come in and become a very good NFL starter. "
So while Henry remains open to the possibility of playing for any NFL team, he's confident that wherever he lands, he can be an instant contributor.
"I had the best year of my career this year," Henry said. "I believe I went against the best every single week in the SEC, played against some elite guys this year and the past three years. There are a lot of guys playing on Sunday that I've competed against and I've won many reps against. I believe I'm ready for the next jump."