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Like many other Saints fans I was very surprised, angered even, that the Saints brass inside the War Room on Airline Drive decided to wait til the 103rd pick overall to land the biggest must of the offseason. When on the clock with the 76th pick Carl Lawson, Tim Williams, Tarell Basham, Derek Rivers and Dasheon Hall were all available. The Saints took, an athletic, versatile, injury plagued linebacker from Florida. WHAT!? WAIT!! WHAT!? I will admit, my head nearly exploded. Now that I have calmed down, read some articles, read some more scouting reports, watched highlights, researched some more, I actually like the pick of Trey Hendrickson, I actually think he could surprise everyone and be a steal for the Saints and here is why.

Coming out of the East West Shrine game scouts and GM’s were raving about Hendrickson, he was voted Defensive MVP, even comparing his game to that of former NFL Defensive player of the year and 5-time pro bowler Jared Allen. Like Allen, Trey Hendrickson didn’t play college football in the SEC or any of the top conferences for that matter and his production at Florida Atlantic is questioned due to the level of competition he dominated week in week out. Not only that they are very similar physically and athletically coming out of college.

A look at the table below compares Hendrickson’s Combine workout to that of Jared Allen.

Name Trey Hendrickson Jared Allen
Height 6’4″ 6’6″
Weight 266 lbs 265 lbs
Arm Length 32 inch 32 inch
40 yard Dash 4.65 sec 4.72 sec
10 yard Split 1.59 sec 1.68 sec
Bench 18 reps 13 reps
Vertical 33.5 inch 33 inch
Broad 122 inch 120 inch
3 Cone 7.03 sec 7.11 sec
20 Yard Shuttle 4.20 sec 4.34 sec

*Bold results show the better result.

As you can see Hendrickson tested better than Jared Allen in every category showing that fears about whether Hendrickson is athletic enough to succeed in the NFL are nothing to worry about.

If we look at the table below at how both Hendrickson and Allen performed in college.

Name Trey Hendrickson Jared Allen
College Florida Atlantic Idaho State
Conference USA Big Sky
Started 36 33
Combined Tackles 125 250
Total 68 138
Assisted 57 112
TFL 41 71
Sacks 29.5 38.5
PD 3 26
Int 0 3
FF 7 13
FR 2 7

*Bold results show the better result.

As you can see Allen produced more in his time at Idaho State. The argument could be made that Hendrickson played against a slightly better level of competition and it has been noted in scouting reports that opposing coordinators ran plays away from Hendrickson as well as double and triple teaming him at times but I imagine the same could have been said about Allen as well. What is evident though is both players dominated the competition they faced and Allen was able to transfer his successful collegiate career over to the NFL instantly recording 9 sacks and 31 tackles in his rookie season for the Kansas City Chiefs who drafted Allen 125th overall in the 2004 draft.

Now lets take a look at their scouting reports coming out of college.

Trey Hendrickson Jared Allen
Positives
Exceptional burst off the line of scrimmage. Tall, rangy Athletic
Challenges the edge routinely and already adept at turning speed into power. Flashes Sudden Burst
Kicked inside at times in obvious pass-rushing situations Quickness to get upfield and turn the corner
Still incredibly raw with a good deal of coachable issues in his game Fights pressure well and usually finds the ball
Makes up for some length concerns with an exceptional long arm move Smart/Instinctive player
Keeps offensive tackles on edge with an array of maneuvers. Not fooled by play action or misdirection
Nice little inside swim move with more than enough agility Gains advantage over slower blockers
Good upper-body turn that presents a difficult target for tackles to punch. Uses his hands effectively to separate and control
Rushes with good lean and has a strong club hand to soften the edge Very emotional and vocal leader who plays from snap to whistle
Impressive, fluid footwork with spin move counter. Shows good hand quickness
Hands are effective at warding off cut blocks Has the lateral agility to string plays wide and
Rakes at the ball as tackler, forcing six fumbles over final two seasons at FAU Possesses above average balance and body control in his pursuit chase
Special teams demon; blocked a punt, two field goals and an extra point in 2016. shows the foot quickness to mirror tight ends and backs covering the pass in the short area
Negatives
Sold out to rush the passer. Has a softer-than-ideal body and needs to add strength and muscle mass to his frame
Playing the run was an afterthought for him Productive pass rusher, but the level of competition was not good
Has a bunch of wasted reps as a pass-rusher. Marginal run defender who gets sealed by the tight end, reached by the offensive tackle
Had an immense physical advantage against many of the tackles he faced does not generate power when redirecting in-line
Level of competition is very much a concern. Has poor strength at the point of attack
Average height with lean legs and short arms for the edge generally getting stuffed when playing too tall in his stance
A tick slow to diagnose and respond off snap Usually neutralized vs. double teams and can be sealed inside by the smaller slot receiver
Allows blockers to cross his face and beat him to the block , he gets washed out and does not use his hands with force to shed
Needs to do better job of thumping and setting a strong edge Grab-&-drag down type of tackler with poor wrap-up technique
Plays too tall allowing blockers under his pads. Needs to use his hands better to prevent blockers from cutting him at his feet
Sometimes rushes the passer wihthout a plan Lacks dedication to the weight room
Can tip when spin move is coming

 

Like Allen coming out of college Hendrickson’s issues are correctable and it will be down to Ryan Nielsen and Dennis Allen to develop the raw potential and scheme up ways to take advantage of his strongest attributes and hide his weaknesses until he improves his game. Hendrickson needs to show what he can do when the pads come on but the one thing he will benefit from is going against Terron Armstead and Andrus Peat in training everyday.

How does Hendrickson help the Saints defense in 2017? That is the big question. Entering the Organised Team Activities and Minicamps the starter pencilled in opposite Cam Jordan will be Alex Okafor who was added to the team via Free Agency. Hau’Oli Kikaha is coming off of his 3rd ACL surgery so his recovery will be something to keep an eye on however he was the starter opposite Jordan last year until he got injured and the Saints coaches still seem to be high on him. Until he can become more disciplined in the run game and not be a liability to the team Hendrickson will more than likely be used as a situational pass rusher to help keep Okafor and Kikaha fresh. It certainly looks like it will be Defensive end by committee but surely that will produce better results than Paul Kruger did in 2016!?

There is a lot to like about Trey Hendrickson and I am not predicting that the Saints just drafted the next Jared Allen but what I wanted to do was show that there is potential there for Hendrickson to be the compliment opposite Cameron Jordan that this defensive line has badly needed since Junior Galette left town. The Saints said all along that they believed there was depth and talent to be had in the 2nd and 3rd rounds of this years draft and if Hendrickson can produce half of what Jared Allen did every season then the Saints might be feeling mighty smug about waiting til the 103rd overall pick to land their edge player.

 

Information sourced from NFL.com, PFF.com & usatoday.com