<
>

Alabama RB Derrick Henry could be good fit for Panthers

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Could another Heisman Trophy winner join Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton in the backfield?

Alabama running back Derrick Henry has scheduled a visit with the NFC champions next month, according to USA Today's Tom Pelissero.

Henry might be available when the Panthers select with the 30th overall pick. He might not be available when Carolina picks at the end of the second round.

Running back doesn't seem to be an immediate need for Carolina with Jonathan Stewart, Fozzy Whittaker, Cameron Artis-Payne and Brandon Wegher in the fold.

But consider Stewart will turn 29 on March 21 and he's set to count $8,250,000 against the 2017 salary cap. Also consider his history of injuries, including three games missed in 2015.

And consider general manager Dave Gettleman has a history of releasing older skill players (see: Steve Smith and DeAngelo Williams) before their contracts expire.

Whittaker is a journeyman best suited for third-down situations. Artis-Payne, a fifth-round draft pick a year ago, didn't jump out on film during his rookie season. Wegher was an undrafted rookie active for only three games last season and didn't get a single snap.

The Panthers are committed to the running game and Henry (6-foot-3, 247 pounds) could be a natural fit in their zone-blocking scheme. He rushed for an SEC single-season record 1,986 yards this past season en route to the Heisman. Throw in the College Football Playoff and Henry had 2,219 yards and 28 touchdowns.

He had 158 yards and three touchdowns in the national championship win over Clemson.

Henry tested well last month at the NFL combine, running the 40-yard dash in 4.54 seconds (11th-best among running backs) and bench-pressing 225 pounds 22 times (tied for eighth-best among running backs). The 40 time was particularly impressive considering Henry's size.

Gettleman is committed to taking the best player available in the first round, so his board is wide-open. He selected a wide receiver in the first and second rounds the past two seasons to beef up at that position. Carolina hasn't taken a running back in the first round since Stewart in 2008.

That NFL teams are allowed only 30 pre-draft visits and the Panthers are using one on Henry shows there is interest. Gettleman doesn't take those visits lightly.