Matthew DeFranks is a sports writer for the Sun Sentinel that is a football expert when it comes to anything Florida Atlantic related. Think of him as the Nick Underhill of that neck of the woods. So naturally, I went to him for intel on Trey Hendrickson when the Saints selected the pass rusher in the 3rd round of this past NFL Draft. Many thanks to Matthew for taking time out of his busy day – you can check him out on twitter anytime you want legit FAU info.
Here is my Q&A with Matthew about Hendrickson:
Andrew Juge, Saints Nation: So to give you a little backstory, pass rush was probably the #1 need for the Saints in terms of fan perspective coming into the draft. It was a bit of a shock that they selected five players before taking a pass rusher with Hendrickson – their sixth selection (all in the first 3 rounds). This bodes well for his chances, though, because there’s a huge hole at starter opposite Cam Jordan. He’ll mostly battle Alex Okafor and Hau’oli Kikaha for a chance to start. And both of those guys have a long and recent injury history. Do you think he can come in and start for this team? How good can we expect him to be?
Matthew DeFranks, Sun Sentinel: In short, I don’t know. Projecting college athletes’ performance in the NFL is one of the hardest things to do, and people much smarter than I have failed very often. I do know the Saints were 27th in the league last year in sacks, so Hendrickson should undoubtedly be able to contribute at least a little. How much he contributes will be interesting to see. Last year at FAU, he kind of carried the defense. It was one of the worst in college football (if I remember correctly, they were ranked at least 125th in both scoring and total defense) last season, and he was the main player people had to game plan around. So he got double- and triple-teamed a lot and still won Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year. The talent is clearly there, but it’s also hard to start as a rookie in the NFL. We’ll see how it shakes out.
Is it fair to say he gets more sacks on grit, hustle and technique and that he’s not really a speed edge guy?
In a way, I think his hustle and motor overshadow his speed. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have it. Yes, he is a high-energy, hard-working guy who plays to the whistle. That’s what shows up on tape and that’s what impressed people during the East-West Shrine Game. He had to fight to get through the double-teams and the chips that teams were sending his way in college. But he also ran a 4.65-second 40-yard dash at the combine. So the speed is there, but I think you’re more likely to be wowed by his effort than anything else.
How does he play the run? Is he a sub pass rusher only – or do you think he can play every down in the NFL?
Hendrickson was decent at setting the edge at FAU, but teams didn’t have much of an incentive to run his direction. He was clearly the best defensive lineman they had — strong enough to hold at the point of attack and fast enough to get to the sidelines. I think he can be good against the run, but his strength clearly lies in his pass-rushing ability.
Obviously his production in college speaks for itself. But the concern from some fans is the level of competition he faced. Do you think his skillset can translate going up against NFL tackles?
I think this was probably one of the bigger questions facing Hendrickson during the draft process. He has short arms at 32 inches and teams might have been concerned about how that would’ve fared against bigger NFL tackles. His size made him a bit of a tweener leading up to the draft, and he said about half the teams he spoke with wanted him at linebacker. The size of NFL tackles are a concern, sure, but Hendrickson also held his own in the few games FAU played against Power 5 schools. In 2015, he almost single-handedly led FAU to a road win over Florida. He had two sacks, a forced fumble and a blocked PAT in that game.
Given the Saints’ pass-rush deficiencies, I could definitely see him having an immediate impact. But there’s usually at least a little bit of an adjustment period to the NFL. So, unfortunately, I don’t know.
Yeah, I generally loved talking with Trey. At first, he can be a little prone to cliches, but after a little bit, he is very engaging, open and honest about what’s going on. He’s also very intense, very competitive and absolutely hates to lose. After FAU lost to rival FIU last year, he had a short press conference where he was clearly very agitated about the defense’s ability to get a stop at the end of the game. This is a video of it:
Here is the entire exchange that happens in about 45 seconds.
Q: What do you think you guys need to do better on defense?
A: We need to win games.
Q: How does that manifest itself?
A: It just comes down to executing on third down and winning games. We aren’t a bunch of losers.
Q: Were people saying you were?
A: No. We aren’t. This is uncharacteristic of our defense. This is uncharacteristic of this program. We aren’t a bunch of losers. Our record isn’t showing that. It’s uncharacteristic of our defense.
So that’s the general fiery attitude he brings. His teammates loved him and he was a captain in his senior season.