Chad Henne came to Michigan with enormous hype as a 5-star prospect, and he more than justified that hype with his performance as a true freshman. Henne played the entire season and led the Wolverines to a Big Ten championship and the sky seemed the limit for the strong-armed Pennsylvania native.
But the Wolverines followed up that 2004 title season with a rocky 2005 that ended with 5 losses as Michigan suffered injuries to many of its key players including Jake Long and Mike Hart. On top of that, Henne had to adjust to life without top wide receiver Braylon Edwards. Many people though Edwards made Henne look better than he actually was.
Henne and the Wolverines started 2006 11-0, but fell short against Ohio State and USC late in the year and missed out on a shot at the national title.
When Henne and fellow seniors Hart and Long came back for 2007, they were picked by many to challenge for another shot at the national title. But a shocking loss to Appalachain State and even more injuries derailed those chances.
Henne suffered a serious leg injury against Oregon in the second game then a bad shoulder injury late in the year, and he was mostly ineffective against Ohio State leading to much criticism. But against Florida in the Capital One Bowl, Henne was finally back at full strength and showed just how good of a quarterback he could be in shredding the Gators’ secondary.
Now that Henne is preparing for the NFL Draft, scouts are wondering just how good he can be at the next level. Henne has shown flashes of brilliance but in the eyes of many people has yet to live up to his talent level.
Henne started to open eyes in the Senior Bowl practices at Mobile, Alabama, where most of the top college prospects go to play in front of NFL scouts. He capped off a great week of practice with a good showing in the game, throwing 2 touchdown passes for the North and showing off his great arm strength and poise in the pocket.
While Henne has always looked like a great NFL prospect, many people question his 0-4 record against Ohio State and his 1-3 record in bowl games. But Henne has won plenty of other big games in his career including a 47-21 blowout of Notre Dame in 2006 (when the Irish were ranked in the top 5) and a last-second TD pass to Mario Manningham in 2005 to hand Penn State what would be their only loss of the entire season.
Henne’s biggest strengths are his arm strength, experience in a pro-style system at Michigan, accuracy, and ability to take care of the football. He doesn’t throw a lot of interceptions and he makes good decisions in the red zone. Many Michigan fans have always felt he’d be a better pro QB than college QB since he is a good game manager which would suit him well against better defenses as opposed to other QB’s who might take a few more chances and commit more turnovers.
Henne’s weaknesses include his inability to avoid the pass rush at times, his tendency to stare down receivers a little too much, and his inaccuracy on the deep ball. Henne had Mario Manningham open on a ton of fly routes this year and failed to hit him or keep the ball inbounds. Much of it was due to injury and not getting a good push off his injured leg, however. Henne also doesn’t throw particularly well on the run but that can be fixed.
When you put it all together, Henne appears to have a high ceiling as an NFL QB and just might make a team very happy on draft day. Henne is a noted solid performer at QB camps and should impress at the NFL combine. A team might fall in love with him and take him in the mid-to-late first round, or he could slip down toward the middle-to-end of the second round.
Regardless of what happens, however, NFL teams would be wise to consider the lineage of quarterback success at the University of Michigan. Every single UM starter for more than a decade has played in the NFL and most of them have started. Henne could be next line in the NFL within the coming years.