Derrick Henry is a polarizing running back

in the dynasty community. It seems that there aren’t many people that just like him. It is a love/hate relationship that has been going on since he was drafted.

Since the end of 2018, Henry has been given an a ton of rushing attempts and in turn, he has been one of the best scoring running backs in the league. The question is, can he sustain his value, or is it time for you to cash out?

5. Boom or Bust, Not Much In Between

NASHVILLE, TN – DECEMBER 15: Derrick Henry #22 of the Tennessee Titans runs the ball and is tackled by Tashaun Gipson Sr. #39 and Justin Reid #20 of the Houston Texans at Nissan Stadium on December 15, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee. The Texans defeated the Titans 24-21. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

One stat that really caught me off guard, was that Derrick Henry carries ended with less than 4 yards on 54% of his runs. While that sounds crazy, I will say that the average for runners with 70+ carries comes in at 56%, but all players can thank Kalen Ballage and his 73% for adjusting the curve a bit.

Either way, this is a category that I really expected Henry to be well above average. The stat that really stuck out, was the fact that he was 40% above average on 10+ yard runs at 14% of his carries.

What does this mean? Right now, Henry is relying on big carries for the majority of his yardage. This is shown by the fact that his top 10% of runs equate for 42.44% of his overall production. Big carries aren’t only a volatile outcome for running backs, but as careers progress and the hits add up, they “normally” become fewer and farther between.

4. Top 12 Sounds Great, But Was 2019 An Outlier?

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 08: Derrick Henry #22 of the Tennessee Titans warms up prior to the start of an NFL football game against the Oakland Raiders at RingCentral Coliseum on December 08, 2019 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

In 2019, Derrick Henry ended the season as the RB7 overall. That sounds awesome, but he is lacking in one key metric when compared to the other 11. With only 18 receptions, he falls 37 shy of the 55.25 average of the top 12. If you take him out, the average jumps a 3.4 receptions, to 58.64. He is coming up a full 40 receptions less than the other 11 average. Even when we take Christian McCaffrey out of the equation, the other 10 average 53.6, so he is still over 35 less.

Only Mark Ingram (26) comes in under 35 out of the remaining top 12. it doesn’t even get that much better when you compare to the top 24, where the average is 47.5 receptions and only Josh Jacobs (20) & Marlon Mack (14) show up with 20 or less.

3. 2019 Is A Down Year For RB1 Receptions

NASHVILLE, TN – NOVEMBER 10: Derrick Henry #22 of the Tennessee Titans warms up before the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Nissan Stadium on November 10, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee. Tennessee defeats Kansas City 35-32. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

It looks bad enough in 2019, but the reality is that over the past 3 seasons, Derrick Henry is the only RB to show up in the top 12 with less than Jordan Howards 22 in 2017. Henry’s 18 is tied for the 2nd fewest (Nick Chubb 18 in 2018) of any running back in the top 24 over the past 3 seasons. He is also tied for the 1st fewest with Marlon back, both of which had 14 in 2018 and ranked as 16th (Henry) and 23rd (Mack).

Overall, 2019 is the lowest average for the top 12 and the top 24 over the past 3 seasons. In 2017, the top 12 running backs averaged 57.92 receptions and in 2018 they averaged 61.83 receptions.

Normally I would be wondering if it is a trend. Are running backs going to catch fewer balls in the future? But when you look at the top 24 averages, they actually go up from seasons past. The top 24 averaged 45.1 in 2018 and 46.1 in 2018, compared to the 47.54 in 2019.

I think this could easily be traced to top 12 running backs Alvin Kamara (11) & Saquon Barkley (12) missing a total of 5 games.

2. Conclusion: Hard Sell

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE – NOVEMBER 10: Derrick Henry #22 of the Tennessee Titans rushes against Juan Thornhill #22 and Anthony Hitchens #53 of the Kansas City Chiefs during the second half at Nissan Stadium on November 10, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

Listen, I am not questioning Derrick Henry’s talents as a runner. When it comes to PPR leagues, history shows us that running backs need minimum of around 35 receptions to hang in the top 12. When any RB comes off of a season as the RB7 with only 18 receptions, they are going to be a sell candidate anyways.

Yes, the big play capability is awesome and who doesn’t like watching a 6’3″ 247lb running back running full speed while running over defensive backs? The fact of the matter is that you can’t count on running backs to consistently doing that.

Even if he finishes as RB15 next year, you will have lost a good amount of perceived value. If he runs for 1,100 yards and 8 touchdowns next year, that would be a nice season. But in comparison to 2019 that would be around RB15 overall. That is not unrealistic at all and I really don’t want to be relying solely on yardage & touchdowns when I don’t have to.

1. Potential Trade Targets

CLEVELAND, OHIO – DECEMBER 22: Odell Beckham Jr. #13 of the Cleveland Browns runs a route against the Baltimore Ravens during the first half in the game at FirstEnergy Stadium on December 22, 2019 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

As mentioned in the opening, the love/hate with Derrick Henry is polarizing. Luckily for us, there are a number of players that you may be able to get for Henry after his RB7 season.

  1. Odell Beckham Jr. – OBJ will be my main offseason target going into the 2020 season. Despite what most consider a trainwreck of a season, Odell has a shot to cross the 1,000 yard mark in week 17. His touchdowns are low at 3, but we know touchdowns are high variance. Despite Baker Mayfield’s struggles, he is a better QB for Odell than Eli ever was.
  2. Allen Robinson – ARob finished the 2019 fantasy season as the WR7 despite horrible QB play for the majority of the season. The dynasty community still seems to be down on him, but I would much rather have this seasons WR7 than this seasons RB7.
  3. Stefon Diggs – Diggs has had an up and down season, but still had 1,129 receiving yards and 63 receptions throughout the fantasy season. At just 26 years old, improvement and positive TD regression could be his outlook over the course of the next 2-3 seasons.
  4. Kenyan Drake + – Drake has shown the football world what he is capable of as a workhorse back since being traded to Arizona. It doesn’t matter if he remains a Cardinal or not, whichever team signs him this offseason is going to have an extensive role for him. He finished 2018 as the RB14 (on less than 11 touches per game) and 2019 as the RB16 spending most of his time with the Dolphins who refused to give him touches. Throw a little on top and you get a RB that will likely finish next season ahead of Henry in PPR leagues plus another potential starter on top.
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1 COMMENT

  1. As long as the volume’s there, I’m ok with the lack of receptions because that’s the design, when you watch the few catches he gets, I don’t see any reason why he couldn’t be a bigger receiving threat, he doesn’t make catching the ball look hard like some thumpers do, just seems like the offense is designed to have him be the pure runner.

    When you look at him and Dion Lewis, you see similar receiving numbers and they both are at or above 75% catch rate, so as a guy that is in the middle and just likes him i’m ok with the usage at least for now lol.

    great article Rick.