The 2021 Titans will probably go down as one of the worst ever #1 seeds in NFL history. I’m willing to bet you probably forgot they went 12-5, but none of it matters now. This is a franchise coming to a crossroads.
They want to show the world they are still title contenders, but many would say a rebuild is on the horizon. One thing we do know for sure: This offense will live or die on the back of their monster of a man at RB, Derrick Henry.
Note: Our Wednesday, July 20th, No Punt Intended episode will look into Derrick Henry in fantasy football! We welcome the one and only Stephania Bell from a little company called ESPN! The show will cover the Bills, Titans, and Buccaneers.
Derrick Henry in Fantasy Football
How did we get here?
Fantasy managers could not have asked Henry for a better start to the 2021 season. He averaged 26.2 points per game through Week 8. Cooper Kupp is the only non-QB that averaged more. Even if you include QBs, Henry ranked sixth overall. He had a comfortable lead over Jonathan Taylor for best fantasy RB until he suffered a Jones fracture in his right foot in Week 8. He would miss the rest of the regular season.
The past few seasons have been a rough go for high-end fantasy RBs, and Henry was the latest gut punch to fantasy managers. He would return for the Titans’ lone playoff game against Cincinnati but didn’t do much. The fact that he was able to come back at all is a positive sign of his health heading into 2022. But what should we expect from the 28-year-old back going forward?
While Henry was easily the best RB in fantasy over the first half of 2021. However, we saw a significant dip in his efficiency as a runner. Since he took over as a starter in 2018, last season marked career lows in yards per attempt, yards after contact per attempt, and a broken tackle rate (credit: Pro Football Reference). His fantasy output was propped up by volume and touchdowns.
Tennessee was limited at WR throughout the year, with A.J. Brown missing time due to knee and rib injuries and Julio Jones looking like a complete shell of himself. I was sure to discover that Henry faced the most stacked boxes he’s ever seen due to the lack of receiving threats, but that was not the case. According to PlayerProfiler, he saw an average of 6.4 defenders “in the box” (near the line of scrimmage), which is the lightest he has faced over the last four seasons. The signs are clear that he is slowing down.
Even though he’s not as efficient as he once was, that doesn’t mean Henry isn’t worth an early pick in fantasy drafts. Volume is king for fantasy RBs. We’ve seen inefficient backs like Ezekiel Elliott and David Montgomery plod their way into Top 5 finishes by leaning on those consistent workloads. Bell cow RBs are a dying breed in the NFL; we should cherish the few remaining while we can.
One positive takeaway from last season was Henry’s increased involvement in the passing game. He was on pace to see over 40 targets for the first time ever. He also achieved a career-high 90% catch rate. With A.J. Brown leaving town, there will be plenty of opportunities for him to see even more looks as a receiver this season.
Derrick Henry's stats last season…
937 rushing yards
154 receiving yards
He was on pace for 1,991 rush yards and 21 TDs… pic.twitter.com/RRg9exJGhq
— NFL Stats (@NFL_Stats) April 13, 2022
The Bottom Line
If this were a dynasty article, I would advise any non-contender to offer Henry to the highest bidder. The end is near, and it usually isn’t pretty for RBs. I can live with his RB4 redraft ADP (source: ESPN) but prefer Dalvin Cook or Joe Mixon since they are tied to superior offenses. However, if you have any opportunity to land Derrick Henry late in the first round, don’t hesitate to pull the trigger.
A Look Inside the Tennessee Titans
Editor’s Note: We asked our writers to focus on one player, but we don’t want to leave you hanging on the rest of the team. While Drew focused on Derrick Henry in fantasy football, here is a quick look at the rest of the Bills, prepared by either Josh Hudson or Ryan Weisse.
Ryan Tannehill: Tannehill played his way into hype back in 2020. That hype train crashed in 2021. If I’m guessing which is the real Tannehill, I’m betting on 2021. There are too many quarterbacks with better weapons and upside. No thanks. -Ryan Weisse
Hassan Haskins: The rookie isn’t likely to see much work with Derrick Henry in front of him. But in the event of injury, Haskins will get first crack at the lead back role. He scored 20 touchdowns his last year at Michigan (30 in three years), so the Titans shouldn’t skip a beat. And in an offense that relies heavily on the running game? That’s league-winning upside. – Josh Hudson
Robert Woods: Robert Woods, Bobby Trees, is a fan-favorite fantasy option. At 30 years old, coming off an ACL injury, in a new offense, with Ryan Tannehill at QB, maybe we need to adjust our expectations. Woods is likely the best fantasy option at WR on this team. However, his ceiling does not approach what it was with the Rams. -Ryan Weisse
Treylon Burks: Burks’ skillset isn’t dissimilar to that of the departed A.J. Brown. Both are YAC monsters with the ability to turn 5-yard drags into 60-yard touchdowns. What has set Burks back this offseason has been a bout with asthma. Hopefully, the missed time doesn’t disrupt his ability to create a rapport with Ryan Tannehill. If it does, we could be looking at a similar season to Julio Jones a year ago– and that didn’t end well. – Josh Hudson
Austin Hooper: With two WRs not at 100% and RBs that don’t catch the ball, the climate is right for Hooper to rebound from some rough years in Cleveland. If you like to wait on TE, you can get Hooper with your last pick. He has legit top-10 upside, but that doesn’t mean a ton at the TE position. However, he will be a solid streaming option this season. -Ryan Weisse
We hope you enjoyed our look at Derrick Henry for fantasy football this season. You can find all of our A Look Inside articles here!
If you’re prepping for your dynasty drafts, you can also find our rookie consensus rankings here.