Wolverines in the NFL Draft: A Pre-Draft Look at Chad Henne
Henne completed his Michigan career as the statistical leader in just about every offensive category a quarterback has any business rating in. Completions, Attempts, Yards, TDs, etc... He possesses an arm that seems like it was touched by Zeus himself and is tougher than a sack of bricks, but sometimes seems like he's just about as mobile. Henne is not a mobile quarterback. He will never be a mobile quarterback.
What he is, is the best drop back passer in college football. He can make every throw. He reads defenses. He knows when to check from a run to a pass. And he knows how to manage a game. Any team that drafts Chad will get a game ready quarterback with a big arm and boatloads of experience and talent.
Henne throws the best deep ball I've ever seen. Whether he's lofting it on the solar winds, waiting for it to glide back down to earth, or launching a 40 yard PRG that has absolutely no arc, Henne can get the ball downfield in ways I haven't seen out of any other college quarterback. Give him a deep threat. Randy Moss would love this guy.
And it's not just deep stuff. Henne throws the ball well all over the field and is especially adept working the sidelines. He has a knack for putting that 20 yard pass right on the line where only his receiver can catch it. Frankly, he throws all the distances relatively well, though his short and long passes are superior to his intermediate routes.
One thing that will especially translate well to the NFL is the fact Henne is one tuff S.O.B. ("Tough" is misspelled for added emphasis, as in the Fabulous Tunderbirds' "Tuff Enough." Now it's stuck in your head too. -Ed.). After getting knocked out of the Illinois game with a separated shoulder this past season (on a missed block by now departed Justin Boren), Henne came back into the game after missing a quarter and change to lead Michigan to a victory over the Illini and mulletacular J Lehman in Champaign.
Another plus, unlike his Michigan predecessor, John Navarre, Henne doesn't have a lot of tipped balls. In fact it was generally unheard of for Henne to clank one off his line or the defensive line.
Finally, one of the issues that's been thrown around like it means something is Henne's 1-7 record in "big games." It is a fact Henne was 0-4 against Ohio State and 1-3 in bowl games. But to hang those outcomes square on his shoulders is not just lazy, it's stupid.
Here are his numbers from his Bowl Games:
2004/5 Rose Bowl - 18 for 34, 227 yards, 4 TDs, No INTs, 1 sack
2004 Bowl Which Shall Not Be Named- 21 for 43, 270 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INTs, 4 sacks
2006/7 Rose Bowl - 26 for 41, 309 yards, 2TDs, 1 INTs, 6 sacks (this is a lie, Henne was drilled 9 times by my count, and hit at least 7 more times.)
2007/8 Capital One Bowl - 25 for 39, 373 yards, 3 TDs, 2 INTs, 3 sacks
Here are his numbers against OSU:
2004 -27 for 54, 328 yards, 2TDs, 2 INTs, 1 sack
2005 - 25 for 36, 223 yards, 1TD, 0 INTs, 1 sack
2006 - 21 for 35, 267 yards, 2TDs, 0 INTs, 4 sacks
2007 - 11 for 34, 68 yards, 3 sacks (bum throwing arm).
These are not the numbers of a guy who flops in big games. Henne single handedly almost won the Bowl Which Shall Not Be Named. His Rose Bowl performance against Texas was one of the best I've ever seen, and he topped it against Florida this year. Michigan lost those games on defense, not because Henne wasn't doing his job. He's a gamer that shows up for the big games. I promise you that.
Runner? Not so much. I have office furniture with more mobility than Henne. He literally is a 6'3" statue with a howitzer. Like any quarterback worth a pro-paycheck, let him play flag football and he'll pick you apart. But smack Henne in the mouth and he tends to go haywire. He simply does not have escape skills. He's a strong kid and hard to bring down with arm tackles, but he ain't going to high step out of trouble.
Another problem is that Henne's pocket awareness is as close to zero as a pro quarterback's can be, frankly you have to measure it in Kelvin to get low enough. Henne has a delightfully torturous manner of actually rolling into a sack. Despite having Jake Long protecting his left side, Henne would roll right. Directly into whomever had recently beaten Schilling, Boren, Mitchell, Ciulla, etc... It was maddening.
One of Henne's strangest weaknesses was his inability to consistently deliver a catchable mid range pass 12-20 yards out. Anything over 20, generally perfect. Anything under 12, generally perfect. 15 yards? 50% at best. And by 50% I mean, half the time it wasn't anywhere near its intended target, and the remaining 50% was broken down into his normal distribution of passing. It generally wasn't pretty. I'm willing to give him a little leeway because Manningham absolutely refused catching anything in traffic and Michigan's tight ends were either suspended or the equivalent of tackling dummies in the flats, but Michigan lived and died on the short and long passes and the mid range stuff was iffy.
Finally there is the injury issue. The only reason we know Henne is tough is because he's played through pain. This year Henne got the hell beat out of him and missed a number of games and might as well have missed a few more. You can praise his toughness all you want, but its hard to overlook a separated throwing shoulder and not get worried.
It's hard to judge Chad based on his killer first year. In 2004 Henne had a safety blanket in Braylon Edwards (#3 pick in the draft), he wasn't so fortunate his second. Henne's freshman year numbers were horrifically inflated by Braylon's presence, as No. 1 caught everything thrown at him within a five mile radius. I'd venture a guess that at least 30% of Brayon's catches would've been dropped by any other receiver that year.
I say that to make a point, don't be deceived by the drop off in production. Henne grew considerably over his second and third years. Had the offensive line served to block rather than usher, I'm confident his senior season would've been his best. Henne grew out of staring down receivers and throwing the ball ten feet over the heads of his receivers. He learned to spread the ball around and not always look for the deep ball. He learned touch.
That said, Henne is a good, not a great decision maker. Knock him around a little and his football IQ likewise takes a hit. He's a very smart quarterback that can make some bad decisions when he's rattled, like the occasional WTF!? interception or a fumble when he tries to scramble (which is akin to a wildabeast trying to swim out of a crocodile infested river. Of note is the fact Henne isn't a gunslinger. To the contrary, he'll eat the ball and take a sack rather than risk the turnover. He takes care of the ball almost to a fault, and that's why the occasional dumb inception is so puzzling. That no mistakes attitude has pluses and minuses, and I'm willing to bet it'll change once Henne is out of the "avoid mistakes at all costs" institution that was Schembechler Hall over the past four years. Free him up and the benefits are obvious. Just ask Florida.
Henne missed a full game and parts of three others with a separated shoulder. He also missed two games early in the year with legs injuries. Despite that, he still threw for almost 2,000 yards and 17 touchdowns. Take away his 10-34 in the Ohio State game, a game he played after a botched cortisone injection literally went right through a shoulder nerve, and he finished the season with a 61.8% completion percentage.
This becomes all the more impressive when you consider, Henne played in a system seemingly designed to minimize his talents. Michigan, especially under former offensive coordinator Mike DeBord, almost refused to play to Henne's strengths. Despite a cadre of elite receivers Michigan focused on an inept running and block scheme that was only effective when Mike hart was in the game. When Chad was allowed to throw the ball, operate from the shotgun, and play to win rather than not lose, the results were spectacular. You need look no further than his performances against Florida and in the Senior Bowl. He's a top notch talent that will thrive in an NFL pro-sytle offense not coached by gerbils. However, if your team is coached by gerbils, you should probably not draft him. Or anybody for that matter.
From the outside Henne is apparently an incredibly hard quarterback to rate. People tend to focus on what he can't do. His numbers declined from his outstanding freshman year onward. He takes a lot of sacks. He doesn't run the ball. He gets injured. His combine workout wasn't the best. My answer to those criticisms is "So What?" Are you drafting a running back or a quarterback?
Chad still a four year starter at Michigan. He owns or shares almost every major quarterback record at Michigan. His teammates love him. He never, never got into trouble. Lloyd Carr, who coached NFL golden boy Tom Brady, raves about Henne in a way he never raved about Brady. He's incredibly tough and controls his team in an even tempered manner similar to Eli Manning, just without the "I'm a total doofus" look on his face. He the type of quarterback who can take over a game when he's allowed to by his coordinator.
Is he ever going to make a pro-bowl? I can't answer that one. He's got the talent to do it, but with quarterbacks it's impossible to predict.
I personally think Chad will have a long successful career in the NFL. If you're looking for parallel, perhaps an Elvis Grbac type career. A long term starter with great potential. Henne is a great pick up for any team in need of a quarterback.