Former Michigan star Henry says he’s a first-rounder

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News
Willie Henry said he’s trying to convince teams he’s a “diamond in the rough.”

Indianapolis — Former Michigan defensive tackle Willie Henry considered returning for his senior season, but now that he’s heading to the NFL, he think he can be a first-round pick.

“Of course,” he said when asked about the possibility last week at the combine. “Because I feel like my competitiveness, me being a great person and an athlete, I feel like I could be the first pick overall. Why wouldn’t I?”

Now, Henry likely won’t be the top pick, but NFL teams like confidence in prospects. They also like big players who can move, and the 6-foot-3, 303-pound Henry fits that description.

Although he didn’t break any records, Henry had a respectable 5-second 40-yard dash as well as 28 reps on the bench press and 30.5-inch vertical jump.

CBS projects Henry as a fifth-rounder, but ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said there’s a chance Henry could go in the first round, describing Henry last week as someone who’s being overlooked in a strong class of defensive tackles.’s Lance Zierlein gave Henry the same grade as Florida defensive tackle Jonathan Bullard, who is considered a potential first-round pick.

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Having 6.5 sacks as a junior helped Henry’s stock, too, because many college defensive tackles aren’t productive as pass rushers. He also had two passes defensed, which show good instincts.

Henry said he’s trying to convince teams he’s a “diamond in the rough,” but it seems that he’s well on the radar already.

As he prepared for the combine, Henry said he spoke to former Michigan defensive end Frank Clark, a second-round pick by the Seahawks last year. Both players, as well as former Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones, went to Glenville High in Cleveland.

Clark told Henry to be ready for a hectic week, but after deciding to forgo his senior season, Henry said his former high school and college teammate encouraged him to be completely committed to the draft process.

“Basically just keep your mind clear and do what you can do,” Henry said Clark told him about the combine. “Control what you can control. Give 110 percent basically. If you’re going to leave or stay, make that decision full blown and take full advantage of the opportunity because not everybody is granted this opportunity.”