Derrick Henry has been a beast his entire life. Born in the small town of Yuli, Florida, just outside of Jacksonville, Henry was a three-sport star, playing football, basketball, and running track. I (Dr. Morse) remember driving through the town late last year and seeing a plaque saying ‘home of Derrick Henry,’ and thought nothing of it, but after reading his high school statistics it really helped put this further into perspective.
On the high school football field, Henry was unstoppable. He rushed over 300 times in each of his four years of high school, and even in his worst season, his freshman year, he rushed 7.9 yards per carry and ran for 26 touchdowns.
By the time his senior season was complete, he had rushed 462 times for 4,261 yards, averaging 9.2 yards per carry, 327 yards rushing per game and ran for 55 touchdowns. 55 touchdowns!! Henry set the national high school football record for career rushing yards with 12,124. Video game numbers!!
It's easy to fathom why Henry was a five-star recruit by ESPN and 24/7 Sports while considered the best running back in the country in 2013. Not only was Henry a success on the gridiron, but he ran track as a sprinter and a member of the 4x100 and 4x400 squads.
Henry was a massive recruit by teams such as Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, Clemson, Florida, and many more. He chose Alabama after initially deciding on Georgia.
Derrick Henry is not the prototypical running back, he more assumes the stature of a bowling ball, measuring at 6’3” tall and weighing over 245 pounds.
While at Alabama, Henry was primarily a backup, and in his sophomore year, he split time with T.J. Yeldon. It was his junior year, the 2015 season, where Henry took his game to the next level. He rushed for 395 times for 2,219 yards, an impressive 5.6 yards per carry and scored 28 touchdowns against high-level competition.
By the end of his junior campaign, Henry would win the Heisman Trophy beating out Christian McCaffrey and Deshaun Watson. He also won the Doak Walker Award, the Walter Camp Award, and the Maxwell Award.
Henry decided to forgo his senior season and enter the NFL Draft. He was a top-ranked prospect with late first-round or early second-round consideration. Many had him as the second-best running back behind Ezekiel Elliot.
The scouts described his running style as violent, with an ability to break tackles with ease, running with speed, long strides, a large frame with superior conditioning, and consistent play.
The main concerns were wear and tear on his body as he became a workhorse, has slow acceleration, average foot quickness, below average catching ability, sluggish cutbacks, and a ‘tall’ running style. The negatives did not deter the Tennessee Titans from taking him with the 45th overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.
Henry played in 15 games in his rookie season (2016), rushing 110 times with an average of 4.5 yards per carry, scoring five times while adding 13 receptions. His 2017 season saw him split carries with DeMarco Murray and yield rushes to Marcus Mariota. Again he finished the season with only 176 carries for 744 yards and five touchdowns in 16 games.
The 2018 season saw Henry split carries with much smaller back Dion Lewis, as well as Marcus Mariota (sensing a theme here?). From Weeks 4 through 13, Henry only averaged nine carries per game, and never rushed for over 60 yards. Only the team knows if this was the offensive scheme or if Henry was in the ‘doghouse.’ Well all of this changed in Week 14 when he went nuclear, rushing for four touchdowns and 238 yards on just 17 carries.
It appeared that the Titans finally realized what they had with Henry, as he followed it up with another impressive week, rushing for 170 yards, two touchdowns on a career-high 33 carries. Henry finished the season strong in Weeks 16 and 17, winning the AFC Offensive Player of the month for December.
2019 was where we saw Henry finally put everything together. The Titans were consistently giving him at least 15 to 20 carries per game, and he was running well. After a down week in week six, Henry stormed back with a vengeance and finished an impressive 2019 campaign by winning the 2019 rushing title, finishing with 1,540 rushing yards on 303 carries, despite missing Week 16 with a hamstring injury.
A minor hamstring injury kept him out of Week 17; outside of that, Henry rarely shows up on the injury report. This is in spite of a massive workload, where he averaged over 300 carries per year in high school, almost 400 in his final year at Alabama, and already entering his 5th year in the NFL.
Henry did suffer an injury in high school. His senior season, he suffered a broken fibula, which required surgery. The fibula is a small bone located on the outside of the lower leg. It makes up the outside of the ankle joint. It has been over seven years since this injury, and it does not appear that this is something that has bothered him.
Another minor injury occurred in November 2016 when he strained his calf during pregame warm-ups, causing him to miss a single game.
This season will be a make-it or break-it year for Henry. The Tennessee Titans decided to extend the contract of Ryan Tannehill over Henry and instead placed the franchise tag on him. There are no plans for a long-term deal. The sides will convene in mid-July. The contract situation could prompt Henry to hold-out, so stay tuned.
Offensive coordinator Arthur Smith is in his second season with the Titans, and the plan will continue to revolve around the hammering style of Henry. Utilizing Henry as they did in 2019, opened up play-action and bootleg plays for Tannehill in his best performing season in his seven-year career.
Henry now has back-to-back seasons with 1,000+ yards rushing, but it's the only second time in his career he has gone over that benchmark. Therefore, this season will be a significant test to find out if he is the real deal or a flash in the pan.
Henry should continue to go around the tackles while rushing. The offensive system has a propensity to go in that direction as 20% of the carries that Henry took outside generated 10+ yards.
Smith will continue to rely on Henry; he had an 81.4% opportunity share, which is one of the top-five utilized running backs in the NFL. Expect those stats to continue. Even though Henry will get the volume through carries, the offensive line will be worse with the loss of Jack Conklin via free agency.
Taylor Lewan returns, and he is a former Pro-Bowl representative and excels at the outside-zone blocking game. The Titans drafted Isaiah Wilson from Georgia, and he will compete with Dennis Kelly for the tackle position. Roger Saffold and Nate Davis will be the guards while Ben Jones is the center. Overall, it's a mid-tier group.
The floor for Henry is alerting. He still needs to prove himself after a couple of bad seasons, and he isn't available in the passing game to keep the floor from dropping out. His surrounding talent is also unproven.
A.J. Brown was impressive but just a rookie last season. Adding to the team is Corey Davis and Adam Humphries, who has been mediocre or worse in their NFL careers. Jonnu Smith will begin the season as the starter now that Delanie Walker is gone.
The Titans did draft speedster Darrynton Evans in the third round from Appalachian State after letting Dion Lewis go to the Giants.
Sports Injury Predictor states that there is a 51.7% chance that Henry misses time in 2020, which translates to about 1.5 games lost in the 2020 season.
The fact that Henry was able to win the rushing title last season and still missed a game during the season speaks volumes. If the 2019 season was Henry’s breakout party, then 2020 may bring him to a whole new level, just feed him carries!
Derrick Henry reminds me a lot of a healthy version of Rob Gronkowski as a running back. He is a physical specimen and a mission to bring down to the ground. The cold weather will amplify that difficulty in tackling him.
Henry won’t catch many passes, as his career-high was 18 in 2019. When he does catch the ball, look out, there’s a good chance he’s taking it to the house.
Derrick Henry appears to be one of those rare genetic freaks like Adrian Peterson and possibly Christian McCaffrey, who can handle the significant volume of touches, wear and tear, and their body just shrugs off the issues.
I (Dr. Morse) have minimal concern for Henry's health going forward, and my injury score for him is three out of ten, low.
Derrick Henry could finish in the top-five of RBs, but many things will have to go his direction. He wore down at the end of last season, and he has just started to play well. Also, Evans is a better back than Lewis, and he could take carries away. But Henry will eat, and the offense is built around him. Expect an RB6-9 finish.
Injury Risk: Low. 3/10.
|Projected Missed||Probability of injury per game ?||Probablity of injury in the season ?|
|Dec 18, 2019||Thigh Hamstring Strain Grade 2||Henry was inactive for Week 16 game against the Saints due to hamstring injury as he logged a limited at practice|
|Nov 6, 2016||Leg Calf Strain||Henry strained his calf in pregame warmups. He sat out Week 9 against the Chargers.|
|Apr 13, 2013||Leg Fibula Fracture||Henry fractured his fibula during a spring scrimmage and underwent surgery.|