Derrick Henry has often been called an overrated back. From the time that Henry won the Heisman trophy as a rusher for the Crimson Tide in 2015, over a high flying Christian McCaffery, critics have noted Henry’s “4 yards and a cloud of dust” as a limiting factor in Henry’s big play ability. When the NFL draft came around, all 32 teams passed once on the back who broke Herschel Walker’s SEC rushing record. The Tennessee Titans scooped up Henry in the second round, perhaps just hopeful that they found a short yardage and goal line back for the future.
Instead, 3 years later, Henry is the heir apparent to DeMarco Murray for the majority of carries in Nashville. Not only will Derrick Henry find himself in scoring situations where lucky owners might vulture away a couple TDs, but Henry is in position to be a true workhorse in this backfield for 3 downs.
One reason that I am so optimistic is that at 6’3″ 247 lbs. Henry seems like he is big and strong enough to resist injury in this sort of a position. Henry also has tremendous value as he is currently being drafted around pick 41. If you recall, Henry filled in for an injured DeMarco Murray in the wild-card game against the Chiefs last year. The Alabama product certainly seized the opportunity as he racked up 156 yards and 1 TD. Henry also racked on 35 receiving yards. This circumstance allows a live experiment against a playoff defense in a highly competitive setting that Henry has what it takes to be successful at this level if given the opportunity.
Critics of Derrick Henry point out his stocky build and lack of breakaway speed as limiting factors on his potential. Sure, he’s no Adrian Peterson or Le’Veon Bell, but he is certainly capable of exceeding expectations in this wide open role. Most running backs that aren’t clear RB1s in fantasy suffer due to lack of opportunity. Take a comparable back ADP wise in Alex Collins. Collins not only is less talented than Henry, but he has more competition in that backfield of Baltimore. This is the case for most of the NFL backfields as more and more teams favor committees over bell-cow rushers. Henry, as previously stated, has the frame to withstand a large workload without the stress on his body.
The Titans also provided Henry with Dion Lewis as a backfield rotational guy. I actually think this could help Henry on passing situations because Henry is a weak receiver and Lewis can help keep this offense on the field. Lewis is a very minimal threat at all to take goal-line snaps away from Henry, and he will only get a few chances to run the ball each week. As mentioned before, Henry is a bruiser, finishing 3rd in yards after contact last year with a 3.58-yard average. I definitely see the Titans leaning heavily on Henry over Lewis based off Henry’s superior ability to not be brought down easily. I don’t even consider this a timeshare or a committee approach, rather a starter and a 3rd down back in Lewis.
Derrick Henry should also be able to take advantage of the team he is on to rack up fantasy points. The Titans O-Line is stacked. The two tackles Taylor Lewan and Jack Conklin are former first rounders and both are absolute studs. This bodes well for Henry who seems to thrive in power and tackle run schemes. Henry also has great vision which coincides with the zone blocking technique this line uses most often. The Tennessee line ranked as the 5th best in 2017 according to Pro Football Focus. This tremendous line gave their running backs 2.12 yards before contact, whereas the league average was 1.56 yards.
Another factor that could lead to a huge season for Henry is the relative ease of the Titans 2018 schedule. Experts have them pegged as owning the 10th easiest schedule based on their opponents this upcoming season. If Henry can beat up on weaker opponents consistently, we could see his stats surge this season. Keep in mind Henry excelled at YAC in college and so far in his young career. We haven’t seen too much of Henry as he has been mostly a backup, but he still managed at least 5 TDs in his first 2 seasons. For all the talk of Henry’s lack of elusiveness, Pro Football Focus ranked him as the 9th most elusive back in the NFL. For someone as big and tall as Henry that is comically absurd.
— Eat. Sleep. Fantasy. (@EatSleepFF) July 31, 2018
Once again, Henry’s ADP is around 41 compositely. If you needed just a little more reassurance, Henry is facing the 3rd softest run schedule defensively according to last season’s metrics. Don’t make the same mistake that the NFL did. Don’t let the Heisman winner fall too far in your drafts. He just might make you pay.
Thank you for reading. What do you think of Henry’s prospects in 2018? Let me know at @LevinskyBen.