Now that free agency, the NFL Draft, and the schedule release have all passed, we have our initial layout in place in team depth charts and strength of schedule. With that, we want to take a look at some players across the fantasy landscape that are either polarizing, over or undervalued, or just interesting topics of discussion and walk through some pros and cons of where those players are regarded in fantasy circles.
So far we have explored players such as Kenyan Drake, Austin Ekeler, Marquise Brown, Tyler Higbee, Mecole Hardman, Nick Chubb, the trio of DeVante Parker, Preston Williams and Mike Gesicki , D.J. Chark, Odell Beckham, Aaron Jones, Leonard Fournette, Amari Cooper, and Cooper Kupp. Today, we are exploring the Juggernaut himself, Derrick Henry.
Week 1 Age: 26.7
Contract: Signed through 2020 (franchise tag)
Using the Dynasty ADP app available at RotoViz, Henry is now climbed to the highest cost of his career. After nearly three full seasons of playing an ancillary role, the Titans have leaned on him to be their offensive identity over the past 23 games dipping into the final month of the 2018 season.
For his career, Henry’s rushing attempts, rushing yardage, yards from scrimmage, targets, and overall touchdowns scored have all risen from the season prior every year of his career. In 2020, Henry led the NFL with 303 rushing attempts, 1,540 rushing yards, and 16 rushing touchdowns, all while even missing a game.
2019 Game Log
Henry once again saved his best for last. After rushing for 643 yards and maxing out at 100 yards rushing over his opening nine games of the season, Henry then ran for 1,342 yards over his final nine games of the year, failing to reach the century mark in just two of those nine games.
From a fantasy perspective, Henry was a top-seven weekly scorer in six of his final seven regular season games, although his worst game came in Week 15 while he outright missed Week 16 with a hamstring injury. Warming up as the season has moved on is no new development for Henry, here are his game splits per month for his career.
Derrick Henry Career Splits Per Month
Play the Hits, Even if you Only Have One
The most impressive part of Henry’s fantasy output is that he only knows one song. Today’s top fantasy backs are multi-faceted offensive weapons, contributing to both the rushing and passing game. But even with his targets rising every year, Henry still only managed to catch 18 passes for 206 yards and two touchdowns in 2020. He ran 194 pass routes, which checked in 36th at the position. Through four NFL seasons, Henry has totaled 57 receptions.
94.4% of Henry’s regular-season touches were through the rushing game, trailing only Marlon Mack (94.6%), Gus Edwards (95.0%), Sony Michel (95.4%), Carlos Hyde (96.1%), and Benny Snell (97.3%) among all backs in the league with 100-plus touches.
Through a fantasy lens, 84.9% of Henry’s fantasy points stemmed via rushing alone, which trailed only Mack (86.7%) and Hyde (93.3%) among top-30 scorers on the season and was by far the highest rate among RB1 options in 2020. Of the other 11 backs in the top-12 in scoring a year ago, the average rushing point dependency between those options was 57.8%. That 84.9% rushing point dependency was the fourth-highest for a top-12 back over the past decade. Of the three players ahead of him – LeGarrette Blount in 2016, Alfred Morris in 2012, Michael Turner in 2011 — only Turner had multiple top-12 scoring seasons over his career. Even in standard scoring leagues, 90.4% of Henry’s scoring was via rushing, which ranked 16th of the 120 RB1 scoring seasons over the past decade.
The reason Henry can get by through a lack of receiving output is that he has been a touchdown machine. Over his past 23 games played, Henry has 28 rushing and receiving touchdowns to go along with one passing score. 32.6% of Henry’s 2019 PPR scoring output came via rushing touchdowns alone, the highest dependency among top-12 scorers at the position. The average rushing touchdown makeup of fantasy scoring from the same group of backs outside of Henry was 18.2%.
Now, Henry is an elite touchdown scorer. He has found the end zone in 45.2% of his career games played in the regular season and in 18 of his past 25 regular season games. But of his 34 games without a touchdown scored, Henry has never been a top-24 scoring back in any of those weeks. He only had four such games in 2019, but he averaged just 8.0 points per game those weeks. Looking at 2020 running back ADP (excluding rookies) here is the PPR and Standard scoring per game output in games without a touchdown from the 2019 season.
2020 RB ADP with 2019 Fantasy PPG in Games Without a TD Scored
|RB||PPR PPG||St. PPG|
You can see how Henry’s fantasy floor without a touchdown stacks up here and it is among the lowest. Of the top-20 backs here, he ranks 17th in PPR formats and 14th in standard scoring per game. As highlighted, he reached that floor in fewer games than many players, but chasing touchdowns has always been a fragile component to fantasy reliance. If Henry runs into a dry spell in the scoring department for a full season, the fantasy landing will not be pretty.
Bringing this home, the reason I bring all of this up is that we should be expecting the Titans to score fewer touchdowns in 2020. The team scored a touchdown on 34.5% of their offensive drives under Ryan Tannehill, which was second in the NFL and way above the 22.0% league rate. Tacking onto their scoring efficiency, the Titans scored a touchdown on 26 of 30 of their possessions (86.7%) over that span that ended inside of the red zone. They were held to just one field goal on those red zone possessions to go with three turnovers. The league rates over that span were at 59.1% of red zone possessions ending in a touchdown and 30.8% ending in a field goal try.
For the season, the Titans scored a touchdown on 77.4% of their red zone opportunities, the highest rate in the league for a season in the 2000s. Over the previous 10 seasons, there have been seven teams to score on 70% of their red zone possessions. In the following season, those teams averaged a 53.5% touchdown rate in the red zone. All of those teams scored fewer touchdowns the following season with an average loss of 12 touchdowns scored among those teams the following season.
Henry is one of the most unique players in the league. The Titans and Henry are in a climate where they each are worth more to each other than anywhere else. A long-term deal between Henry and the Titans seems imminent despite that he is set up to play 2020 on the franchise tag. Even if you penalize Henry for his scoring and receiving fragility, it is extremely tough to leave him off of the RB1 board for 2020. I have him as a fringe- RB1 in dynasty circles as he approaches his true second contract in the league. There is something to be said for exploring moving Henry there given his age, one-dimensional nature in scoring output and now reaching the highest cost of his career, but locked-in running back touches are available in surplus. Moving him is team dependent.
As usual in closing here, in dynasty, every player has potential to be both a buy and sell at the same time. You just have to find the proper context in your league on which he is valued per owner. Startup ADP and cost is not going to be an exact market for you with team context a driving force in established leagues, but here are the buy and sell point suggestions using that as guideline pending which side you fall on.
2020 Rookie Pick Value: High First (1.03)
WR Value Targets: JuJu Smith-Schuster, Odell Beckham, Mike Evans
TE Value Targets: Travis Kelce