If any of you wonderful readers follow me on Twitter or have ever had the misfortune of speaking to me in the real world, you know I tend to casually throw around the words “love” and “hate.” I love iced coffee; I hate Donald Trump, I love this movie hate or hate that movie. I’m largely the same way when it comes to football players as it pertains to fantasy. Shades of gray are few and far between with me.
Now, I can fall out of love with players as quickly as I fall in love with them, looking at you Michael Floyd, Donte Moncrief, and DeMarco Murray. But now I have a new object of my affections, and I know this time it’s meant to last. Derrick Henry. However, I’ve learned my lesson from my past heartbreaks, so I’ve decided to dig a bit deeper to make sure Henry really, truly is the man for me.
Whenever I choose to profile a player or just want to know more about him for my personal edification the first place I go to is PlayerProfiler.com. It has the amazing player profile function where you just pop an active player’s name into it, in this case, Derrick Henry, and it spits out a ton of useful data, plus that players closest comparable. In case you missed Henry’s comp, it’s this guy:
So after spending the next 10 minutes or so (okay 2 hours) watching YouTube highlights of a video game character, I meandered my way back to reviewing Henry’s metrics. What stands out when looking at his workout metrics would be his Speed Score of 116.3 (this is a weight adjusted metric), and his burst scores are off the F’n charts (@AndrewMiley can confirm that this is an actual scouting term).
Admittedly, Henry isn’t the most agile athlete ever, but when you weigh nearly 250 lbs and can combine that with the insane speed and burst he possesses, agility isn’t all that necessary. Let me draw a word picture for you. Imagine a nimble and sporty car driving down the road, it’s sleek and can take corners like a champ, just driving along happy as a clam as it approaches some train tracks. Rumbling down the tracks is a 75 car locomotive, the sports car attempts to make it across the tracks before the train passing but fails to do so. That nimble sports car is smashed into hundreds of pieces, the engine is ripped out from the impact, and the car is completely unrecognizable now. The train, that’s Derrick Henry, simply put he is a fucking monster. The sports car in this metaphor? Shit if I know, who cares, I’m here to talk about Derrick Henry. Derrick Henry is Russian Street Fighting Freight Train of a football player.
Now that Henry is an NFL vet I’m not going to go into much detail about his college career. I’ll just mention that in 2015 he won the SEC Offensive Player of the Year Award, Doak Walker Award, Maxwell Award, Walter Camp Player of the Year Award and the Heisman Trophy. Before his highly successful college years, Henry decimated the high school landscape finishing his career with a high school national record 12,144 rushing yards and added 153 rushing touchdowns. He came to Alabama as a 5-star recruit; the #1 ranked RB and 12th overall player in the nation. So yeah he was pretty good in high school and college.
So far I’ve comped Henry to a freight train and a Street Fighter II character, probably not very useful as far as fantasy football goes I suppose, so I enlisted the help of @ChristipherBean to help find me some real life humans that we could compare Derrick Henry too. Based on size and combine metrics Derrick Henry’s closest player comp is Jonathan Stewart, when including Pro-Day numbers his closest comp was Steven Jackson.
When looking at Jonathan Stewart, you need to keep in mind that coming out of Oregon in 2008 Stewart was a highly rated draft prospect who was selected 13th overall by the Panthers. Even though Stewart has never quite lived up to his draft pedigree, largely due to sharing a backfield with the electric DeAngelo Williams and injuries, he’s had a solid nine-year career.
While Stewart has had a nice career, the comp I am more interested in is Steven Jackson.
As you can see below, their height, weight, 40 time and vertical jumps are strikingly similar. Jackson outperformed Henry in the 3-cone and 20-yard shuttles, which may just show how exceptional of an athlete Jackson was as opposed as a knock on Henry.
|Derrick Henry||Steven Jackson|
|Bench press (225 lbs.)||22||16|
|Vertical jump||37 inches||37 1/2|
|Broad jump||130 inches||118|
|3-cone drill||7.20 seconds||7.03|
|20-yard shuttle||4.38 seconds||4.09|
Jackson’s college receiving stats were also very similar to Henry’s, up until Jackson exploded for 44 receptions his final season at Oregon State. While there is no way in hell Henry could ever reach Steven Jackson’s career high 90 reception season of 2006, I think it’s plausible for him to achieve the 37 receptions Jackson averaged in his other full seasons.
Henry’s lack of usage in the passing game at Alabama is a tad disconcerting, but on the bright side, he did average a robust 16.8 yards per reception in his career (on 17 total receptions). Here’s the thing about his receiving totals while at Alabama, no other running back under Nick Saban lit up the reception column either:
If you notice Mark Ingram, Eddie Lacy, and T.J. Yeldon, whom all happen to be pretty adept as receiving backs, are on the above list. Just because Nick Saban chooses not to utilize his RBs in the receiving game doesn’t necessarily mean those RBs don’t possess receiving ability. In Henry’s rookie season he was a highly efficient receiver turning 16 targets into 13 receptions and gaining good yardage on those receptions averaging 10.5 yards per reception. It’s obvious Henry will never resemble Flipper Anderson on the football field, but at a minimum, he can be a useful option in the receiving game. For anyone who doesn’t know who Flipper Anderson is (or just hates the Giants), please see below.
The other concern for Henry is the fact that he shares a backfield with DeMarco Murray. To say that I was not on the Murray train the last off-season would be putting it mildly, frankly as an Eagles fan, I thought he was shot. If you had to watch his indecisive running every week during the 2015 season you might have come to the same conclusion. Suffice (it) to say I was incorrect, after averaging an anemic 3.6 YPC with the Eagles, Murray bounced back with an excellent 2016 season. With that 2016 season came another 340+ touches and another birthday, in fact, Murray turns 29 on February 12. With father time and a young Henry breathing down his neck, how much time would you give Murray as the Titans’ lead back? Maybe one more season, knowing the cap hit for cutting him after the 2017-2018 drops significantly? That’s probably a reasonable assumption. I choose to go nuclear and go back to the well and say that Murray is old and his heavy usage will catch up with him this season. The only season we can compare to Murray’s workload last season would be his 2014 campaign with the Cowboys, doing so with the understanding that 2014 season Murray touched the ball 100 more times than last year. Do you remember what Murray looked like after that workload? I do, he looked slow, indecisive and generally worn down. Though 100 touches is a pretty big difference, so is the fact that Murray was a spry 26-year-old when he had that monster 2014 season, and he’s now pushing 29 years old. Splits are always dangerous in a small sample size, but since it fits my narrative I’ll go ahead and cite the fact that Murray’s YPC (3.34) over the final six games of 2016 were a full yard and a half worse than his in first ten games (5.01). To boot, Murray was less efficient while his usage decreased during that stretch.
Even if Murray makes it through next season without injury (he won’t) and can deliver another productive season, he’s gone after the 2017 league year. The Titans spent a 2nd round pick on Henry in 2016, and you simply don’t use that draft capital for a backup RB. Keep in mind that the Titans drafted Henry after they had already traded for DeMarco Murray in the 2016 offseason. At worst, I see Henry starting in a committee again to begin 2017 and by the end of the season being the lead back in any committee. As a Henry owner, you could live with another committee season knowing that the Titans are a run-first offense (4th most rushing attempts in 2016) and Henry will likely receive more work than any other backup in the league. Once Henry takes over the role of lead back watch out, he averaged a solid 4.5 yards per carry last season and a respectable 5.09 on his 123 total touches. When he’s getting a consistent 15-20 carries on a weekly basis and able to smash into the defense repeatedly for several quarters I foresee many Sundays punctuated by him ripping off long runs against a worn out defense. And goal line work? Did I already mention that Henry is huge? Yep, he’s huge, no reason to pull him for another back when near the goal line.
In rookie fantasy drafts last year, Henry was easily the 2nd most coveted RB behind Ezekiel Elliott. Based on current cost I’d rather target Henry in trades than Zeke. I’m not going to disparage Zeke in anyway whatsoever, but if you want to trade for Zeke you’ll need to gut the rest of your roster to do so. Henry shouldn’t cost you more than a mid to late 1st round rookie pick to acquire. In that area of the draft, you’re looking at players like JuJu Smith-Schuster or John Ross, and I don’t see either as guys to move the needle. Whereas Henry has a chance to be special. He’s in a run-first offense, with an excellent run blocking offensive line. Henry is a size/speed freak in the mold of Steven Jackson, one of the best running backs in the NFL in the last 15 years. His only impediment to a full-time role is an overused, old DeMarco Murray and you can get him for a draft pick that, at best, is a stab in the dark. Yes please, give me all the Derrick Henry, I love him and this time it’s going to last!