Derrick Henry's 2017 Fantasy Football Outlook
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What You Need to Know:
- Henry averaged 4.5 yards per carry and 10.5 yards per catch as a rookie last year.
- He carried just 110 times and caught 13 passes, though, finishing 40th among RBs in non-PPR points and 45th in PPR.
- The Titans say the workload split between Henry and DeMarco Murray will remain similar in 2017.
- Unless that changes, Henry is more of a high-upside handcuff than standalone fantasy option.
A promising rookie season
Henry was as good as anyone could have hoped as a rookie. He averaged a strong 4.5 yards per carry — 12th best among 42 RBs with 100+ attempts. He was effective near the goal line, converting 3 of 4 carries inside the 5-yard line into TDs. He was even efficient in the passing game, hauling in 13 of 15 targets and averaging 10.5 yards per catch.
Henry simply didn’t see enough volume to be a reliable fantasy play. He reached double-digit carries in just 4 of 15 games and finished 38th among RBs with 110 total rush attempts. His 15 targets ranked 73rd. That left Henry 40th at the position in non-PPR points and 45th in PPR.
Blame DeMarco Murray. The 1st-year Titan was a workhorse and a stud, averaging 4.4 yards per carry and scoring 9 times on 293 totes. Murray also corralled 53 of 67 targets for 377 yards and 3 TDs. He simply didn’t give the team any reason to scale back his role in favor of Henry.
Will that change in 2017?
Not according to HC Mike Mularkey. He said Murray will continue to be "the guy" in the backfield in February and said he remains “the workhorse” in March. Tough to argue with that — assuming Murray produces like he did last year.
But he turned 29 in February and is up to 1,420 career carries, including 878 over the past 3 seasons. That’s exactly 100 more attempts than any other player during that time. So it’s certainly possible Murray slows down in 2017.
That’d open the door for Henry, who ranked 4th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA last year. (Murray finished 24th.) We saw a slight shift in the backfield distribution over the 2nd half of 2016. Murray averaged 16.6 carries to Henry’s 8.1 during the season’s final 8 games vs. 20 to 6.6 in the first 8.
Tennessee figures to remain a run-leaning offense, even with progress from QB Marcus Mariota and the addition of 1st-round rookie WR Corey Davis. Eight of Mularkey’s 13 offenses have finished among the top 11 in rushing attempts. All 8 of those squads ranked among the top 17 in rushing yards and top 14 in TDs.
The biggest issue with Henry, at least in early drafting, is price. He went at the end of the 6th round as the 27th RB off the board in May MFL10 drafts. As a #2 RB who doesn’t project to contribute much in the passing game, Henry will have a tough time returning value at that price without a Murray injury. Of course, a Murray injury would turn Henry into a potential league-winner.
Draft Sharks Bottom Line:
Henry looked like a future fantasy star as a rookie last year, averaging 4.5 yards per carry and performing well near the goal line and in the passing game. DeMarco Murray was so good, though, that Henry didn’t see the ball much. He finished 40th in non-PPR points and 45th in PPR.
The Titans have said this offseason that the backfield will look the same in 2017. Even if a few more touches shift Henry’s way, he’ll have trouble producing reliably weekly fantasy numbers. At this point, he still looks more like a handcuff than a standalone fantasy option. We’ll see if the tide starts turning in August.