As of Week 14 in the NFL 2009, Danny Woodhead has amassed 8 carries for 42 yards for a 5.3 YPC average, including a 16-yarder, and caught 5 balls for 58 yards. While those numbers may illustrate a hint of promise, they are not reason enough to bookmark him now.
What you should know about Woodhead is that he is a superior athlete with the will of a champion, but like many other short players that have come before him, he has been undervalued as a result.
Danny is generously listed at 5’8″ and 200 lbs., which surely had everything to do with him not getting serious attention from major colleges coming out of high school, namely University of Nebraska. At North Platte High School in North Platte, Nebraska, all he did was break the Class A career rushing record.
Undeterred by the lack of interest, and fueled by the desire to attend a school that wanted him, Woodhead ended up at Division II Chadron State College in Chadron, Nebraska. In his freshman year he rushed for 1,840 yards, which marked the beginning of an illustrious college career.
In his junior season he ran for an astonishing 2,740 yards, and finished with 7,441 yards in four years. He rushed for more than 200 yards 19 times, and is second on the all-time NCAA list with 9,259 all-purpose yards behind only Brian Westbrook (Villanova), and won the Harlon Hill trophy twice (Division II equivalent to the Heisman).
Even after producing a sensational resume, Woodhead was once more overlooked and not invited to the NFL’s 2008 scouting combine. At his pro day however, many of his measurables would have placed him in the upper echelon of prospects.
He posted a 4.33 40-yard dash which would have tied him with Darren McFadden for the second-best time, slightly ahead of budding superstar DeSean Jackson, and less than a tenth of a second slower than lightning-fast Chris Johnson who just so happens to be gunning for 2,000 yards rushing this season.
But wait, theres more. His pro-agility and 60-yard shuttle times would have been the best, and his vertical jump would have been second-best, had he been invited to the combine.
Those are the reasons to bookmark him now.
The Jets signed him as an undrafted free agent but then he sat out 2008 with an injury. This season, he was moved to wide receiver while on the practice squad in October, and was activated October 17th when Jerrico Cotchery and Brad Smith were injured. This may turn out to be a blessing for Woodhead since the Jets have a crowded backfield and he can now be utilized in a variety of packages. I can think of some other short, pure athletes that teams like to use in a variety of ways: Darren Sproles, Maurice Jones-Drew, Wes Welker and LaRod Stephens-Howling to name but a few.
Any time you combine superior athleticism, a strong will, and a chip on a shoulder, you have a hidden gem. Now make no mistake, not every diamond in the rough is going to be polished to perfection like a Wes Welker, but it would be foolish not to keep an eye on Danny Woodhead.
This article also appears on Undrafteds.com