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Fantasy Football File: Derrick Henry

There are questions about the impact of his 2020 workload, but his place as the central figure in the Tennessee Titans' offense is unquestioned.
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The start of NFL training camps is rapidly approaching, which means that Fantasy Football drafts are not far behind.

The Tennessee Titans had one of the NFL’s best offenses in 2020 and this season they feature a number of players who should be appealing to fantasy owners. To help with the pre-draft process, All Titans at will break down the players who will (or might) show up on draft boards.

Today, running back Derrick Henry.


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Why you should draft him: He is the two-time NFL rushing champion and one of just five NFL running backs who have run for 1,000 yards or more in each of the last two seasons. Henry also scored 33 rushing touchdowns in 2019-20, which is at least four more than any other running back – and more than twice as many as all but 10 other running backs – over that span. In each of the last two years, he has averaged better than 100 yards per game, and 13 times in his last 31 appearances he has rushed for at least 100 yards and a touchdown.

He is the central figure in the Titans’ offense and was on the field for two-thirds of the offensive snaps in 2020.

Perhaps most notable is that he gets better late in the year. Of his 5,860 career rushing yards, 2,031 (34.7 percent) have come in December. A similar ratio exists with his rushing touchdowns (21 of 55, 38.2 percent), which makes Henry a guy who has been a real difference-maker in Fantasy Football playoffs.

Why you shouldn’t draft him: If you’re really into the receiving aspect of things in PPR leagues, then Henry is not your guy. In five NFL seasons, he has just 76 career receptions and no more than 19 in a single year. By comparison, two running backs (Alvin Kamara and J.D. McKissic) had more than 76 last season alone.

Of greater concern is the so-called ‘Curse of 370,’ which says running backs who accumulate 370 touches or more one season see their production drop significantly the next year. Henry had 397 touches in 2020 (378 rushes, 19 receptions), which puts him right in the crosshairs of this historical trend. Add to that the fact that he rushed for 2,027 yards, the fifth-highest total in NFL history. That makes him one of eight players ever to rush for at least 2,000 yards, and each of the first seven experienced a significant statistical decline the next season. The last one before Henry to get there was Adrian Peterson in 2012, and he managed just 1,266 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2013. At the time, Peterson was one year older than Henry is now.

Notable number: 1,073. That is how many yards Henry had after contact last season. By comparison, only he and three others (Dalvin Cook, Jonathan Taylor and Aaron Jones) rushed for more than 1,070 yards overall last season. Henry is 6-foot-3, 247 pounds with surprising speed, which makes him a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses and a guy who is difficult to get to the ground, particularly when the offensive line gives him enough room that the first tackler he faces is a linebacker or a defensive back.

They said it: “It will be one of those things where when the boss comes in and says, ‘Hey, we’re going to do something different,’ then we’ll do it. … Anytime it is suggested that (Henry) takes some [practice] reps off, he doesn’t like it. He likes to be out there. Until I’m told otherwise, that’s what I’m going to do – put him out there, let him work.” – running backs coach Tony Dews, on the possibility of managing Henry’s workload this season.

Bottom line: Yes, there is a risk of injury (that is the case for every NFL player) and it is not likely that he will rush for 2,000 yards again, even with a 17th game added to the regular season. Henry, though, should be a top five pick in any league and merits consideration for No. 1 overall.