Point/Counterpoint: Are you in on Derrick Henry this season?
By Megan Shoup and Steve Shoup:
Every offseason and all summer long, fantasy football analysts debate about different players, teams, schemes and everything in between. What we’ve noticed as we approach the end of the offseason is you can find data and stats to support just about any argument for or against a player.
That’s fine, and it is good to have debates on players to hear both sides. The lesson I have learned is not to blindly follow one side of a stance on any player. For fantasy purposes, it is best to read about both sides of the argument and decide which side, data, and analysis YOU agree with. From there, you can use that decision to help you in drafts, best ball drafts, daily fantasy, and sports bets.
That’s why we will be doing a series of Point/Counterpoint, in an effort to show both sides of an argument “for” and “against” a player. It also helps that the Point/Counterpoint is a back and forth between us as siblings. We are used to many debates, especially about fantasy football! So let’s start with RB Derrick Henry.
Looking at Underdog’s ADP (8.1), RB Derrick Henry usually goes toward the end of the 1st round in best ball drafts. I’m ready to jump on board the Big Dawg train again! Why are you more hesitant?
Henry is a tough guy for me to love at that ADP range of the backend of the 1st round. I just have too many concerns for me to center my draft around him. The first issue though is more the effectiveness of the Titans’ offense. Over the last three years, the Titans’ offense has finished 10th, 4th, and 15th in points and 12th, 2nd, and 17th in total yards. I know more of that drop comes from the passing side, but their yards per carry went from 3rd and 2nd in 2019 and 2020, and then to 14th last season. On top of that, this offense has some offensive line questions and just lost A.J. Brown. Will they be in a position for Henry to produce like he has in the past?
That is a fair question. But Derrick Henry and AJ Brown only played 6 of 17 regular season games together last year (not counting the week 3 early exit for Brown). So I do believe Henry can still produce without AJ Brown. The offensive line questions do worry me a bit, as this group ranks 28th according to Sharp Football Analysis.
But Big Dog, as so many in the fantasy world love to call him, had an 85.7% opportunity share in 2021. And opportunity is king for NFL running backs. Not to mention per Player Profiler for running backs, Henry was #3 in Evaded Tackles, #2 in Juke Rate, and #1 in the very important category…Expected Fantasy Points per Game (22.0).
Are you concerned more concerned about Henry’s opportunity or efficiency in 2022? Or do you simply just like the RBs being drafted around him better this season?
For me, it is a combo of concerns. In addition to the offensive efficiency going down, his yards per carry went down as well. He went from 4.9-5.4 YPC between 2018-2020 and dipped to 4.3 YPC last year. He’s a year older, coming off a major foot injury, and now defenses can even stack the box more with no A.J. Brown.
As much as he can still evade tackles and will have a lot of opportunities, the other backs in that range like Dalvin Cook, Najee Harris, and even Joe Mixon give me more confidence with their built-in passing role. I feel better about not just the other backs in that range. Stefon Diggs, Davante Adams, and Travis Kelce all are players I’d rather start my draft with than Henry. For me, I’m questioning Henry’s ceiling, and every guy I just listed feels safer with as high or greater upside. Outside of just diversifying your exposure, is there any reason I should start taking Henry above this group?
You make excellent points about the other RBs and WRs/Kelce in that range. But for me, this is the running back that led the NFL in fantasy points per game (23.0) in his 8 games in 2021, which was more than 2 points per game more than RB Jonathan Taylor‘s (albeit on the smaller sample size).
Also, it doesn’t hurt that Henry was getting a few more passes thrown his way. Henry’s targets went from 1.9 targets per game in 2020 to 2.5 targets per game in 2021. I think it really boils down to this question…do you think Henry has another alpha year in him with a real shot to be the RB1?
Yes, there is no doubt last year Henry was still an elite runner and fantasy producer. If Henry can get back to that level, even with the warning signs I’ve mentioned, I will regret not having enough exposure.
For me, I think a lot of this could come down to how good the Titans are this season. In the last couple of years, they’ve won the AFC South and were able to control the game on the ground. This year they might be ahead less, which could make it tougher for Henry to get the full carries and TD opportunities he’s had in the past. That is my biggest concern if they have to play from behind in more games this season.
I just see too many “what ifs” to take him in that 1st round range. If any of the age, team regression, injury concerns, etc. become a factor, he will probably be more in line with a mid-to-late 2nd or even early 3rd ADP value. I’ll let you have the last word on this one, and I will say I’m a bit more nervous about my lack of Henry shares, but the risk is too much for me.
You make a lot of great points, some of which honestly makes me a little nervous about the Henry exposure I do have. I think when “buying” Henry in Rd. 1 of drafts, you are making the bet that he will still be the Big Dog we all know well and you believe he still has a real shot to be RB1.
I still believe Henry can be RB1 this season, but believe me, this is not a bet I’m “all-in” on. In other words, I have decent Derrick Henry best ball exposure, but I’m not overexposed or way overweight either.
This was a tame debate for us but still brought up good points on both sides and data to support each argument. So which side do you land on? Are you in or out on Derrick Henry this season?