By Adam Aniba
This year's linebacker class features a talented group, that boast a variety of skill sets. Some are limited to playing close to the line, others display the ability to thrive in coverage.
We've seen more defensive backs switch to LB's, but not too many receivers successfully transitioning to linebacker. Nevada transfer Daiyan Henley, played receiver for his first two seasons and has shined since his transition to middle linebacker for Washington State. This week Henley recorded a 4.54 second forty yard dash time, impressing teams with his athleticism and explosion.
6'0" 230 lbs | LB | WSU
Draft Proj Late 2nd-3rd Rd
Career Nevada (38 Games)- 150 TAK (93 solo),'12.5 TFL,6.5 SACKS, 3 FR, 3 PD, 4 INTS & 1 TD
'22 Stats WSU (12 Games)- 106 TAK (54 solo), 12 TFL, 4 SACK, 2 FR, 3 FF, 1 INT & 1 PD
Henley attended Crenshaw HS in Los Angeles, CA where he lined up at wide receiver. During his senior year he earned City MVP, while guiding Crenshaw to the Los Angeles Coliseum League Championship.
As a 2-star recruit, Henley accepted an offer to play for the University of Nevada. Henley was active for 24 games during his first 2 seasons. In a two year span between 17'-'18, the Crenshaw receiver caught 17 passes for 232 yards and three touchdowns.
In 2019 Henley was moved to the otherside of the ball and mov to linebacker full time. He played in 4 games (5 tackles 4 solo) before missing the rest of the season due to injury.
Fast forward to 2021, in which Henley led the team in tackles with 103 in 12 games. For his efforts, he was named to the All-Mounltain West Second Team. Henley led all linebackers in the nation with 4 interceptions with one of them being a pick six vs UNLV. He also had 3 fumble recoveries, 6 sacks and 3.0 tackles for loss.
The Crenshaw HS product shined in his role as the starting middle linebacker, gaining the attention of USC, Kansas State, Washington and Washington State. Henley opted to leave Nevada and play for Washington State as a graduate transfer for the '22 season.
In his first year with the Cougars, Henley led the team with 106 total tackles (five double-digit tackle games), which was good for 2nd-most in the Pac-12. He also recorded 12 tackles for loss, which tied him for 5th-most in Pac-12.
Henley led all Washington State linebackers with 12 tackles for a loss, 4 sacks, 2 fumble recoveries, 3 forced fumbles, 1 interception and 1 pass defended. Even though Henley was the team's best linebacker, he also made his mark on special teams, leading the Cougars with 6 special teams tackles and 5 double-digit tackle games.
Awards & Accolades
'22 All-Pac-12 1st Team
'22 All-Pac-12 2nd Team as an all-purpose/special teams player
'22 All-American 2nd Team
'22 Butkus Award Finalist (top college linebacker)
'22 Midseason All-America Team
'22 Bednarik Trophy finalist
'22 Lott IMPACT Trophy
Fluid backpedal, displays the ability to mirror tight ends in coverage (thrives in zone)
Nonstop motor with sideline-to-sideline ability
Boasts impressive speed
Background as a receiver shows with soft hands (5 career interceptions)
Disciplined eyes, rarely bites on misdirection plays
Still learning the nuances of playing linebacker
Pre-snap play diagnosis requires refinement
Although displays above average functional strength, can get stonewalled by bigger offensive lineman and tight ends in the run game
As a pass rusher, needs to be coached up with his hand placement and counters
Although boasts a muscular build, a bit on the small side for a starting MIKE linebacker
Although Henley has tremendous upside as a potential MIKE linebacker, patience will need to be exercised by the team that drafts him. The Cougars linebacker is a work in progress as a signal calling middle linebacker, but has has improved every season.
Although not one of the bigger linebackers in the class, make no mistake, he's a physical specimen who enjoys collisions. Henley plays like his hair is on fire every play and instantly upgrades any NFL special teams unit.
Henley has the highest upside as a coverage linebacker, amongst his peers in this class and has a high ceiling for success on the next level. His ability to matchup against tight ends is notable and will appeal to teams looking for linebacker help. The Cougars linebacker has seen his stock steadily rise, since the Senior Bowl and could see his name called early than expected during the draft.
*Games Watched- 9/3/22 vs Idaho, 9/24 vs Oregon, 10/1 vs Cal, 10/8 vs USC, 10/27 vs Utah, 11/12 vs Arizona St., 11/19 vs Arizona & 11/26 vs Wash
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