In 2020, Derrick Henry had a historic year. He had 378 rush attempts for 2,027 yards and 17 touchdowns. In addition, he had 19 receptions for 114 yards and no receiving touchdowns. Given all of that, you would assume Henry easily finished as the RB1 in fantasy.
He actually finished as the RB3. He was four points behind Dalvin Cook who played two less games and 40(!) total points behind Alvin Kamara who played one less game than Henry.
Why is that? He had one of the best rushing seasons in NFL history and yet was not really even close to the RB1 spot. The key word is receptions. Henry only had 19 and in most fantasy leagues that give a point per receptions (PPR) it should come as no surprise that Henry’s lack of receptions cost him big time.
Now in 2021, he is being drafted as the RB3 which he finished as last year despite having an incredible year. Historically speaking as well, running backs who have rushed for 2,000 yards in a season, of which there have been seven total to ever do it, the average total rushing yard regression is 947 yards.
In other words, the average 2,000 yard runner will rush for nearly 1,000 yards less the next season. That is a HUGE drop-off. Personally, I would say Henry drops to about 1,400 to 1,500 yards next year which is still elite do not get me wrong. I think Henry is still easily a top eight guy in 2020 but he’s being way overdrafted.
Two years ago, Henry finished with a league leading 1,540 yards rushing in addition to 16 rushing touchdowns. Again, while amazing statistically for a running back due to only 19 total receptions, Henry finished as the RB5. The reason everyone loved him in 2019 was because his ADP was as the RB23 in the fourth round!
Now is it a mistake to take a player like Henry who is dominant and will probably be top eight or higher no matter what? No, to be honest if you leave a draft with Henry as your RB1 I don’t fault you for it. Henry is going to get 300+ rush attempts and will be very productive. Barring injury, which could be said for any of these guys, Henry won’t be this massive bust.
However, I really think you could be missing out on some guys who have a higher upside due to their involvement in the passing game. I think Henry’s upside is limited simply because the Titans will not run as much as last year as a result of the addition of Julio Jones. Jones is a top five or higher wide receiver in the NFL and will demand targets more than Corey Davis ever did as the WR2 in Tennessee.
The team will not have to rely nearly as much on Henry being the focal point of their offense. Julio Jones will get his 1,300 yards a year and AJ Brown will get his monster share of targets as well. Brown is coming off of two consecutive seasons of over 1,000 yards to start his career.
An impressive part of Brown’s game is his touchdown upside as he has 19 touchdowns over the span of the last two years. Many think Brown has even more room to grow as a wide receiver and deserves even more targets than the 106 he had last year.
Personally, if I have the third pick in my fantasy draft right now I am looking at taking guys like Alvin Kamara, Ezekiel Elliott, and even Aaron Jones who finished as the RB5 last year and now is looking to have an even bigger role on third downs. It’s a hot take sure but personally I am not the biggest fan of Derrick Henry this year.
I am not saying don’t draft him because 1) Everyone is a value at the right price and 2) the guy is still a stud. Just be aware that you’re most likely drafting him at his ceiling as of now and with that comes some risk.