When discussing linebackers named Henderson, more often than not E.J. Henderson will to mind as a staple of the Viking’s LB core over the past five or six seasons. However, that is likely to change in 2012 as another member of the Henderson family tree is set to make a name for himself. Younger brother, Erin Henderson, a big-time under-the-radar free agent, has been resigned by the Vikings (one year, $2 million) while his older brother remains a free agent. In 2011, Erin Henderson finally got some substantial playing time as the starting weak side LB, even filling in for his older brother at times at MLB due to injury. Not only did he perform adequately, he far exceeded expectations and has provided great IDP potential in 2012.
As Sam Monson explained in this article, Erin Henderson was an incredibly efficient linebacker last season, and in some respects, the most efficient. As Sam so eloquently stated,
“Just looking at tackle figures you might not be drawn instantly to his name, but Erin Henderson made more positive defensive plays relative to how much he was on the field than any other linebacker.”
A bold statement, yet one that is backed up by statistics. Sam goes on to state that Henderson made a tackle on 16.1% of every running play which he was on the field for – the highest mark in the NFL at his position. Some statistics can be a bit inflated, but not in this case. This is cold, hard evidence that Erin Henderson is a ball-hawk who possesses the natural ability to find the ball carrier and take him down. Despite playing in the 8th most defensive snaps for Vikings in 2011, Henderson notched the 5th most tackles with 58 (and missed out on 3rd place by a mere 3 tackles) as well as a pair of sacks. He received an overall grade of +21.7 and a run defense grade of +17.3, both of which were good for 2nd best on the team, in addition to a +2.0 pass coverage rating that was the best among Minnesota’s LBs. Compared to the rest of the 4-3 OLBs in the NFL, Henderson’s overall grade was 4th best, his run defense was 3rd, and his coverage was 5th. Not bad for a first year starter. Not bad at all.
Erin Henderson looks to have a very high ceiling as a LB3 (possibly even a LB2 by the end of the season) going into the 2012 fantasy football season as a big-time sleeper. His 2011 numbers alone don’t constitute a draft pick, but much more goes into consideration in this particular scenario. If his brother, E.J., does not resign with the team, MLB becomes a big question mark for the Vikings. After their starting three LBs, the highest number of defensive snaps a LB played was 65 (Kenny Onatolu). Furthermore, as of now Jasper Brinkley is their starting MLB, although he did not play a single defensive snap last season. In that case Erin Henderson will likely play MLB in nickel packages, and still may do so even if they bring in competition at MLB. He clearly showed effectiveness in all facets of the game last season, so an increase in playing time, and therefore IDP value, seems inevitable. Here is a chart to display what Henderson’s 2012 numbers would look like if he was to play 900 snaps, a very realistic number, based on his 2011 performance:
|Erin Henderson’s Projection|
If Henderson records 89 tackles and 3 sacks, a very achievable benchmark, he will have himself a very nice 2012 season. Considering he is likely to go undrafted in most IDP leagues, or at best a very late draft pick, Henderson will likely please whoever is smart enough to take him in 2012. One has to imagine he will only improve in his second year as a starter, so using a late round draft pick on him is a low risk/high reward move.