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Derrick Henry finally put it all together in 2019, finishing as a top-five running back in fantasy for the first time in his career. His massive production in the run game helped the Titans earn a playoff berth, where they went on to knock off the Patriots and the Ravens in major road upsets. Henry put up career-best production and in his 4th professional season, he earned his first Pro-Bowl nod. Can Henry build on his massive numbers? Or is he a candidate for regression?
|RUSH YDS||RUSH TD||REC||REC YDS||REC TD||FANTASY POINTS||FPPG|
Henry was arguably the best running back in football last season, putting together absolutely dominant numbers in Tennessee. He saw 303 carries, a career-high, and was utilized on 68% of the team's hand-offs. He was on the field for 59% of the team's snaps, up from 41%. the year before. Rather than try to fit him into a versatile offense, the Titans made him the focal point and it paid off in a massive way. Henry led the league in carries and yards and was tied for rushing touchdowns with Aaron Jones.
|RUSH YDS||RUSH TD||REC||REC YDS||REC TD||FANTASY POINTS||FPPG|
I have Henry's numbers dipping a bit across the board, with his yards per carry and total carries falling back to Earth a bit. Still, even with a minor decline in production, he's close to a lock to being an RB1. The other running backs on the Titan roster have a career 25 carries and after Dion Lewis joined the Giants in free agency it's clear the Titans will use Henry on practically every snap. The Titans' running back still has next-to-no receiving ability, but he is a clear-cut favorite to win the rushing title again.
Auction Price: $40
Henry's ADP will shoot up to the first round after his monster season, and while he doesn't have the receiving capabilities of other running backs in his draft range, his consistency and guaranteed touches, especially in the red zone, make him an option as safe as they come in the first round.
The baseline for Henry's carry count is likely in the 290s at this point, as none of the other running backs on the roster are good enough to eat into his production. His floor is lower due to his lack of receiving ability, and he's more touchdown-reliant than most players. The Titans ran on the third-most plays in the league last year, and that figures to continue as Henry is easily the team's best offensive weapon. As A.J. Brown continues to improve, he and offseason acquisition Adam Humphries will keep teams from stacking the box too frequently - the fact that Henry produced those numbers last year while seeing a stacked box on 35.31% on carries (most among workhorse running backs) is incredibly impressive.
With Ryan Tannehill starting all 16 games and benefitting from the continued evolution of the passing game with Brown, Humphries, and Jonnu Smith, could Henry's situation improve in 2020? He has all the motivation in the world to come through with a massive season after signing a one-year franchise tender. He's likely never going to get 25+ receptions in a season, so that limits his upside to an extent, but would anyone be shocked if he rushes for 20 touchdowns this year? Henry runs straight through defenders like he's a little kid in an inflatable obstacle course, pushing his obstacles away with ease. He's a man amongst boys out there and very few defenders in the league can reliably tackle him one-on-one.
Tennessee Titans Offense
The Titans offense is all about Henry and opening up opportunities for him. As soon as the coaches realized that, it made them much more dangerous. Tennessee ranked 4th in run-blocking in 2019 per Football Outsiders, but they lost Jack Conklin to the Cleveland Browns in free agency. Dennis Kelly will likely start at right tackle next year, and his ability to replicate Conklin's ability will make a huge impact on Henry's production. Still, the offense continues to improve. A.J. Brown had an awesome rookie season, putting up 52 receptions for 1,051 yards and 8 touchdowns. His continued involvement in the offense will only stretch out opposing defenses more and make life easier on Henry. Adam Humphries came in as a free agent this offseason and he'll provide a nice slot presence. Jonnu Smith has continued to improve and will hope to provide the same level of production Delanie Walker did for so long. Corey Davis has largely been a bust since being taken 4th overall in 2017 as he hasn't gone for over 1,000 yards once. The Titans went for 25.1 points per game in 2019, the 10th best mark in the league, and that has a chance to improve further with Ryan Tannehill under center for 16 games. Tannehill went for 2,742 yards, 22 touchdowns, and 6 interceptions in 10 starts last year - a major improvement over Marcus Mariota.
Strength of Schedule
The Titans play in the AFC South which features the Texans and Jaguars, each of whom allowed among the most fantasy points to the running back position. The Texans hope to have J.J. Watt back in 2020, which could improve their defense. Meanwhile, the departures of Calais Campbell and Malik Jackson from the Jaguars will leave them very vulnerable to running backs this year. The Colts should be improved after adding DeForrest Buckner. The Titans will also have to take on the Ravens, Packers, Vikings, Broncos, and Bears who feature elite front seven talent, but the Lions, Bengals, and Browns should be much friendlier. Frankly, I'm not sure how much schedule matters to Henry's production, as he dominated against two tough defenses in the playoffs in the Patriots and Ravens, compiling 377 rush yards on 64 carries. Henry is a beast and very few teams can slow him down with his rare combination of power and athleticism.
Derrick Henry produced career numbers in 2019, and while his production could dip across the board this season he should still be among the best fantasy players at his position in the league. The Titans are incredibly committed to his success and there's no reason he can't be amongst the league leaders in both rushing yards and touchdowns in 2020. He's not going to contribute in the receiving game, but he should still dominate this year. Henry is one of the best in the business at what he does and you should feel great about spending a late first-round pick to get him on your team.