I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with Derrick Henry. I absolutely love the player - a Titan of a man who looks more like a Greek God than just about any other player in the league. He plays the position that absorbs the most punishment but doles it out on a weekly basis. He’s an absolute joy to watch. The word unicorn popped into my head last night not only because he stands alone in the modern NFL but he has that thick single braid that sticks out the back of his helmet.
I hate that I gave up on him in fantasy exactly one year too early. I bought a lot of Derrick Henry stock from the start of his career, and while he’d show flashes, he never delivered on the lofty expectations I had for him during his first three seasons. Even in 2018 when he eclipsed 1,000 yards for the first time and dazzled us with one of the greatest runs of all time - a 99-yard masterpiece - his numbers were still somewhat pedestrian.
I wrote this piece before his big breakout last year, wondering if he could be better with a new offensive coordinator. It turns out he can be. (Bonus, I embedded that 99-yard run in that article)
Henry reminds me a bit of a power hitter in baseball, a guy who may not give you much else. He’s going to hit 50+ HRs but his batting average might be .220 and certainly don’t ask him to steal or play his position well. Henry isn’t going to give you much in the passing game, but he’s so talented as a runner that he’s a locked in 1st round pick in fantasy.
He won his first rushing title last year and has a chance to claim his second this year. He was snubbed a 1st Team All Pro selection last year but with his dazzling playoff run last year and the Titans again sitting in good position for post-season play, I’d expect he will change that in 2020. His only competition for the rushing title this year is Dalvin Cook, who missed a game but sits only 88 yards behind Henry and will play Monday night against the Bears.
Here’s the only thing I’m worried about with Henry in 2021: Arthur Smith is probably going to be a Head Coach somewhere else. Yes, it’s possible another coordinator can come in and replicate the formula, but any coordinator change worries me.
Henry should continue to be a first round pick as long as he’s given the volume, but he’ll never catch an Alvin Kamara or Christian McCaffrey for value because of what those two bring in the passing game, although I’d rather have him than Zeke Elliot.
As running backs become less valuable to teams in the sense of contracts and draft capital, a true unicorn like Henry becomes that much more valuable in our fake game. Enjoy the ride.
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