Jets Rumors: ‘Ascending Talent’ Called Player to Watch in Draft

Daiyan Henley

Getty Washington State linebacker Daiyan Henley at the 2023 NFL Combine.

New York Jets long-time media member Rich Cimini of ESPN provided some NYJ “draft clues” during his latest article on April 16.

“The reported names of the Jets’ top-30 visits show a lot of offensive and defensive linemen — hardly a surprise,” Cimini began, continuing: “They’re always looking for reinforcements in the trenches. One non-lineman on the list is Washington State linebacker Daiyan Henley, a player to watch [in 2023].”

Cimini added that Henley “didn’t start playing linebacker until 2020 [but] is regarded as an ascending talent.” The Jets could use one more LB this offseason — whether that’s Kwon Alexander or a youngster like the Washington State product in the draft. Any newcomer would have to beat out third-year prospect Jamien Sherwood for the LB3 role this summer.

NFL Scouts Describe Daiyan Henley as ‘Rambunctious’ & ‘Fascinating’

Scouting analyst Kyle Crabbs of The Draft Network said it best: “Henley is a unique case study and a fascinating developmental prospect for the 2023 NFL Draft.”

Crabbs went on to label him a “defensive chess piece that was moved around to maximize his impact.” Henley also showcases a “nose for the football” and a propensity for big plays.

A former wide receiver in high school and college, the converted linebacker is known for his ball skills in coverage, “explosive” finishing ability, fast “flow to the football,” penetration as a pass rusher and plus special teams skillset. His cons include size and strength inside the box, play diagnosis and an overall rawness at the position.

NFL Network draft expert Lance Zierlein had this to say about Henley: “A rambunctious inside linebacker with good speed and toughness, Henley’s playing style can be described as more active than instinctive. His inconsistency in reading keys and anticipating the play flow is mitigated somewhat by his speed and talent to wrap and finish in space. He has excellent range and does a nice job of stepping downhill to challenge blockers and running lanes.”

In the end, Zierlein concluded that although “there are some eye-catching production totals in the takeaway column and favorable physical elements to his game, [his] inefficient movement combined with recognition delays could push him toward a backup and core special teams role in the future.”

During a breakout campaign with Washington State in 2022, Henley surpassed several defensive totals that he accumulated over three seasons at Nevada. He finished with 106 total tackles, 12 TFLs, four sacks, one interception, two fumble recoveries and one pass defense during that final collegiate campaign.

The Draft Network Gives Daiyan Henley Third-Round Grade

Crabbs gave Henley a “third-round grade,” which puts the Jets in an interesting position if they’d like to pursue the upside linebacker.

Currently, general manager Joe Douglas has no third-round selections in 2023. He does have two second rounders, however, assuming they don’t trade one or both for Aaron Rodgers.

That means Douglas and the Jets could reach a bit on the “ascending talent,” or hope he slips to round four. Option three would be a trade up or down if the opportunity arises — from round two or round four.

If a Rodgers trade does not occur before the NFL Draft, a trade down from pick No. 43 would make a lot of sense, being that the Jets also hold pick No. 42.

Henley is the type of player that head coach Robert Saleh and defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich tend to target at the 4-3 outside linebacker position, so Cimini’s note isn’t all that shocking once you get to know the prospect. Quincy Williams, Hamsah Nasirildeen and Chazz Surratt all display a similar athletic profile inside the LB room.