Derrick Henry and The Case of the Overpriced Handcuff
Bad football players don’t tend to win the Heisman Trophy. Derrick Henry managed to do this during his time at Alabama. He is a very talented young running back and is itching to become a fantasy superstar. But this is not going to happen in 2017, so I cannot understand why MFL10 drafters are taking him so high.
Sometimes good players don’t get thrust into the starting lineup straight away and are all the better for the waiting in the long term. Just ask Aaron Rodgers. The same could be true of Henry, especially if Mike Mularkey remains in charge of the Titans beyond the 2017 season, given the coaches commitment to “exotic smashmouth.”1 But we here at RotoViz are projecting that the 2017 season will not be one in which Henry is able to reward the faith that best ball drafters have in him. Henry is currently the 29th RB going off the boards, ahead of players with a much clearer path to fantasy relevance. No one can explain to me why this is happening; therefore, it is my job to explain why it shouldn’t be.
AS A PROSPECT
Henry finished his time with Alabama as the Crimson Tide’s all time leader in rushing yards. He beat out some very impressive names to get to this mark.
The fact that of the names above, only Shaun Alexander and Mark Ingram have enjoyed any long-term NFL success, is irrelevant. They are still impressive names. Coming out, Henry drew some positive comparisons to a host of NFL backs with differing levels of achievement, including one very positive comp. The chart below is courtesy of the RotoViz Box Score Scout app.
Yes, Adrian Peterson was the closest comparison to Derrick Henry coming out of college. Why wouldn’t you be excited?
AS A PRO
Henry appeared in 15 games as a rookie for the Titans, starting just one of them. He finished with 490 rushing yards on 110 attempts with 5 touchdowns, a respectable 4.5 yards a clip. He did play on just over 25 percent of the team’s offensive snaps, as the lead back DeMarco Murray monopolized the backfield to the tune of 81 percent. Murray had 293 rushing attempts, as he finished the season with 1,287 rushing yards. In the last five games of the season, the Titans did entrust Henry with at least two red zone rushing attempts in each of the games, and were rewarded with four touchdowns. However, as we can see below, the other guy wasn’t too shabby inside the 20 either.
Henry is going off the MFL10 boards as the RB29. Players going after him include Peterson (RB32), Frank Gore (RB35), Duke Johnson (RB39) and Giovanni Bernard (RB55). All four are players we have projected to score more fantasy points in 2017 than Henry. Henry is down at RB48 in our composite staff projections, while we have Gore at 23, Johnson at 29, Bernard at 37 and Peterson at 41. All of these players have roles or opportunities that make them better bets than Henry this season.
As we have already seen, Henry is not in a timeshare. He is purely DeMarco Murray’s backup. Also, Mike Mularkey’s track record suggests that he is not in favor of a committee in his backfield. Between 2008-2016, the RB1 in Mularkey’s offenses have accounted for 55 percent of the rushing attempts. 2 The RB2 has seen 20 percent. Last season, Henry also saw a larger chunk than the average RB2, enjoying a 23 percent plurality. But this is offset by the fact that Murray saw 62 percent of the carries. Henry is backing up Murray, and the RB29 is not a spot to be taking a backup, especially in a PPR format like MFL10 leagues. Henry saw just 21 targets last season against the 56 looks Murray saw.
The lead RB spot for the Titans is one that should offer substantial rewards for fantasy players. Below, in my Pass and Pace tendency projections, we can see that despite their additions in the receiving group, they should still be a running team.
Pass Tendency: -0.03
Pace Tendency: -1.00
But a backup like Henry is not going to reap the full rewards. I have him projected to see a larger role than last season with 28 percent of the carries, but I have Murray getting the lion’s share with 55 percent. Henry needs an injury to Murray to become a stud, and then everyone drafting him at RB29 can slap themselves on the back and rejoice in the genius that may have won them their league. But Murray has missed one game in three seasons. Now the Titans can cut Murray following this season with very little negative impact on their salary cap, and once that happens Henry can begin to embark on the career a Crimson Tide RB hasn’t enjoyed since Alexander’s MVP run with the Seahawks.
But answer me honestly – how will this have helped you after you wasted a top-80 pick on him in 2017?
Spoiler Alert – It won’t.