He opened eyes at the Shrine Bowl and only opened them further with his pro day. Now having officially arrived on the 2022 NFL Draft stage, how does the scouting report of Wisconsin DT Matt Henningsen stack up?
Matt Henningsen’s NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Defensive Tackle
- School: Wisconsin
- Current Year: Redshirt Senior
- Height: 6’3 3/8″
- Weight: 289 pounds
- Wingspan: 82 1/8″
- Length: 33 1/8″
- Hand: 9 3/8″
Matt Henningsen’s Scouting Report
Say what you will about stereotypical Wisconsin football. Yes, their average score in victories is 7-3. Yes, their style would be considered retro in the 1990s. But Wisconsin knows how to develop football players — especially on the defensive side of the ball. The Badgers have a few highly rated NFL Draft prospects this year, and Henningsen is on that list.
Henningsen was perhaps a late emergence on the NFL Draft stage. But now, everyone knows who the burly Badgers defender is. He blew up the Wisconsin Pro Day with excellent numbers — among them a 37.5″ vertical, a 119″ broad jump, a 7.15 three-cone, and 22 bench reps. Do the numbers translate on tape, and what else does Henningsen offer that might be appealing to an NFL team?
Henningsen’s athletic profile
Henningsen’s 37.5″ vertical would have been the best at the NFL Combine among defensive tackles. Unsurprisingly, that explosiveness shows up on tape. Henningsen has great burst off the line. With that sheer burst, he accelerates quickly through gaps and invades the backfield.
Beyond his burst, Henningsen also has decent size and length. His frame affords him a solid combination of natural leverage and proportional length. With his burst and 33 1/8″ arms, he can generate massive amounts of power at the point of attack. His power can shock off-balance linemen and force open paths to the QB.
Henningsen is also very strong, and his athleticism and strength go hand in hand. He uses this combination like an ice pick. With his quick burst, he’ll surge into gaps, where he has the raw strength to wrench open lanes in pursuit of the QB. And in the running game, with his explosiveness and wide frame, he swallows up RBs in the backfield.
Execution beyond the physical traits
Henningsen’s game revolves entirely around his motor. He’s a high-motor player who chases plays to the sideline in pursuit with good speed. That relentless motor also shows up on pass-rushing reps. The Wisconsin DT doesn’t fade when his path is obstructed and can use his strength to fight through congestion.
As a pass rusher, Henningsen flashes with his hand usage. He can use violent hands off the line to club and stun linemen. He’s also shown to replace his anchor while maintaining leg drive on bull-rush reps. He establishes anchors with the same violence referenced earlier and can clog lanes with his frame. Moreover, the Wisconsin DT has some measured twitch in his movement, although he can channel it more effectively.
In run defense, Henningsen shows flashes as well. The Wisconsin DT has the play strength to establish and maintain anchors, as well as shift gaps. Additionally, he can run with blocks and patrol gaps all the way to the sideline. Henningsen owns the strength to two-gap moving linemen, as well as enough lateral agility to divert course.
Lastly, Henningsen has a lot of alignment versatility. He may be best settling between 1-technique and 4i at the next level, but he took reps everywhere from 0-tech to 5-tech at Wisconsin.
Areas for improvement
While Henningsen’s upside is exciting, he’s very much a work in progress at this point, particularly with his hand usage and leverage. Henningsen is high-hipped and often bends at the waist. Thus, he isn’t always able to lower his pads enough. He often comes off the snap too upright, sapping away at his leverage and the pace of his first step.
Going further, Henningsen is more of an upright, linear rusher, and can be stiff when changing directions. He can get locked up by anchors and sometimes struggles to free himself. With his inconsistent leverage and stiffness, Henningsen can be easily redirected on his pass-rushing reps, and he too often lacks control after his initial burst.
That brings us to his hand usage. While he flashes violent hands, Henningsen can be a bit uncontrolled and aimless at times. He relies heavily on his explosiveness and strength and doesn’t always come with a pass-rush plan. The Wisconsin DT can do a better job keeping his elbows tucked and loading his hands on pass-rushing reps. He can also be quicker making contact, as his hands aren’t precise or efficient.
Among other things, Henningsen’s hips aren’t overly flexible, and he also lacks the ankle flexion to stunt outside and work around the edge. He can give up surface area easily and is also at times a hair late timing the snap.
Henningsen’s 2022 NFL Draft scouting report overview
Henningsen is well worth a draft pick and should hear his name called in the 2022 NFL Draft. The main appeal of the Wisconsin DT rests with his upside. Henningsen is extremely explosive and generates ample straight-line power with his burst and length. He’s also strong and possesses the ability to anchor and rip down extensions.
Henningsen’s combination of explosiveness and power-generation capacity is further magnified by his motor. The Wisconsin DT plays with a relentless attitude and can acquire second-effort sacks and tackles for loss. That urgency as a playmaker will no doubt win over some scouts.
Having said all this, Henningsen has some operational limitations that may render him a Day 3 pick. He struggles mightily with leverage, stiffness, and pad level at this point. He also lacks consistent hand usage and is mainly reliant on his physical traits. He’ll have to improve his application at the next level.
Nevertheless, Henningsen has many building blocks in place. He’s explosive, tenacious, strong, and powerful. He’s also alignment-versatile and brings all-out effort on every snap. Henningsen is worth an early-to-mid Day 3 pick as a rotational defensive tackle in multiple schemes, with potential starting upside.
Henningsen’s Player Profile
If you think Henningsen is built like an offensive tackle, it’s because he is. The Wisconsin DT was actually an offensive lineman coming out of high school. He played in the trenches on both sides of the ball for Menomonee Falls, but he was officially listed as a tackle on the recruiting trail.
Labeled a two-star recruit in the 2017 class, scholarship offers were scarce for Henningsen. He received several from smaller schools, including Western Illinois. But he passed up those opportunities to instead walk-on for the in-state powerhouse Wisconsin Badgers.
Henningsen’s career at Wisconsin
The two-star Henningsen had to adjust to the Big Ten, but he’d soon surpass expectations at Wisconsin. He’d not only develop into a full-time starter on defense, but he’d also earn a scholarship and make his mark on the Badgers’ roster.
Henningsen redshirted in 2017 but came back as a redshirt freshman in 2018 and made an impact. He earned a sack and 2.5 tackles for loss in 10 starts, and his role only expanded in 2019. That year, Henningsen amassed 5 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, 2 pass deflections, and 2 fumble recoveries — both returned for touchdowns.
Henningsen experienced adversity in 2020. Just two games in, he tore his bicep and was out for the season. But the Wisconsin DT returned stronger in 2021, putting up 6 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks alongside defenders like Leo Chenal, Jack Sanborn, and 2023 NFL Draft prospect Keeanu Benton.
Henningsen’s NFL Draft ascension
Henningsen likely won’t crack the early rounds, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility. Teams love to bank on traits and will surprise onlookers with reaches aimed at adding high-upside prospects.
Henningsen is one of those high-upside prospects. While his limitations might relegate him to Day 3 range, his combination of explosiveness and power is well worth the investment at the right spot.
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