Most people who cover the NFL and NFL Draft have never heard of Nolan Henderson. The Delaware star quarterback shines bright tools and upside even from the FCS level.
The spring 2021 FCS season played favorably for me, personally. I’m a sucker for live football. I will watch live spring football over MLB, NBA, or any other sport. It’s why NFL Sapient is designed the way it is – football is the deepest and most entertaining sport, in my opinion. So having the FCS playing through the spring allowed me to get eyes on many players I don’t normally lay eyes on. That’s how I found Nolan Henderson.
The FCS Playoffs were very entertaining this season. I was watching Delaware play against Jacksonville State in the quarter-finals, and Henderson quickly dominated the game. I mean, flat-out dominated. Jacksonville State had a great defense, especially for the FCS level. Their defensive backs couldn’t beat the arm of Henderson, who completed five of his first eight passes, all on complex routes along the sidelines.
The Gamecocks quickly ramped up the pressure, but Nolan showed incredible athleticism to keep the play alive and scramble outside of the pocket, extending plays and improvising to make the play. Late in the second quarter, he took a nasty hit that roughed up his shoulder. After writhing in pain for a moment, Henderson went back to the sideline, got his shoulder taped up, and was quickly back in the game before the end of the half, showing that competitive toughness that everyone admires.
Nolan Henderson had my full and undivided attention.
Nolan Henderson’s first full season as a starter turned heads.
Henderson enters the 2021 season as a redshirt senior who waited his turn in Delaware. His lifelong dream was to play quarterback for the Blue Hens. His family owned season tickets and attended just about every game growing up. Henderson had just six career starts entering the spring season, including the last three games of 2019.
Delaware came into the spring season with the hope for Henderson to shine. He didn’t disappoint. Henderson led the team to a 7-0 start to the season, running into the semifinals of the FCS playoffs. Henderson earned first-team All-CAA honors for his efforts.
The end of the season didn’t end the way Henderson had hoped. He suffered a shoulder injury in the playoff win against Jacksonville State but returned to finish the game. In the semi-finals loss to South Dakota State, Henderson hurt his knee and missed more time, but again returned to the field and finished the game.
What Henderson brings to the football field
There is a lot to like about Nolan Henderson’s game. The first bit that stands out on tape is his big arm. He has the capacity to make a lot of throws in the playbook, showing ability with both strength and velocity. Not only can he throw tight bullets when he needs to, but he displayed the proper awareness to make touch throws with command. His arm is strong enough to make good throws even off-platform, making him a serious threat outside of the pocket.
Henderson is also a very explosive athlete. His acceleration is almost instantaneous, and he doesn’t always look to run when things break down. He wants to throw the ball first. When he becomes a runner and starts moving down the field, he’s dangerous.
Mechanically, Henderson is a fairly sound player. He has good feet. He’s quick, moves in the pocket well, and has a quick, tight release.
The potential shortcomings
His size is the first and most problematic issue in his game. Henderson is listed at 6’1″ and 195 pounds on the Delaware roster. He’s probably closer to 190. NFL teams are going to wonder if he can take NFL contact and stay healthy. The injuries later in the year, in a shortened season, will only extend those concerns.
Henderson’s feet aren’t consistent. Sometimes he stands flat-footed in the pocket like a statue, relying on his raw athletic ability to get away if needed. That won’t fly in the NFL either. Lastly, he will sometimes try to make too much happen, forcing the football across his body deep down the middle. That’s not attractive to teams. They’d like to see him throw the ball away.
While he does make mental mistakes sometimes while trying to make a big play, he does show the ability to hit on them. His big arm allows him to make plays even while throwing off his platform.
Why you can expect a big season from Henderson
Entering this season, Nolan Henderson has 14 career starts and is 9-5 as a starter. His Blue Hens team last season was excellent because of their run and pass threats across the field. With his ability to both run and throw efficiently, Henderson makes him a difficult player to defend. Now that he has a full season as the starter under his belt, it’s hard to imagine him not having a big 2021 season, especially with so much to prove.
He does need to add some muscle to his frame and weigh into the season around 200 pounds. His frame does have room to expand and grow. NFL weight rooms will take care of the rest. He simply needs to get there. His decision-making should improve, too, now that he’s been a starter. I think Henderson is on another dominant CAA run and will make his case to be drafted into the NFL.