After a disappointing season, Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry exploded for one of the best fantasy performances in recent memory. Facing the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday Night Football, the third-year running back recorded a staggering 238 yards and four touchdowns on 17 rushing attempts. Henry timed this performance perfectly, as the fantasy football playoffs have just started in the majority of leagues.
Nobody expects Henry to repeat that stat line again, but Thursday’s game raised his fantasy stock quite a bit. Henry has a lot of potential as a runner and could be a startable asset moving forward. Let’s take a dive into the numbers and see what to expect from Derrick Henry for the rest of the season.
Fantasy Football: Setting Expectations for Derrick Henry
Derrick Henry has spent the majority of the season splitting snaps with running back Dion Lewis. The lightning to Henry’s thunder, these two were supposed to complement each other well on the football field, while slightly limiting the others’ fantasy ceiling.
However, Lewis has been the primary back throughout the majority of the season. After 13 games, Lewis has seen 65.47% of the offensive snaps to Henry’s 35.88%. This clearly shows the Titans are giving Lewis more opportunities, and his dual-threat nature allows him to be on the field in passing and running situations. Henry offers nothing in the passing game, which limits his overall fantasy value.
Lewis’ production has dipped recently, but that hasn’t significantly affected the snap distribution. Over the past four weeks, Lewis has played in 70%, 53%, 59%, and 63% of all offensive snaps. Henry, meanwhile, has played in 33%, 49%, 41%, and 40% of snaps over the same timeframe. Henry has been productive when given the opportunity, he just hasn’t had as many opportunities as he probably should.
That said, Henry is seeing the ball in the most important part of the field: the red zone. Over the past two weeks, Henry has seen nine rushing attempts inside the opponents’ 20-yard line. Henry has done well with said opportunity, recording 57 yards and three touchdowns over the past two weeks. Lewis, meanwhile, has seen just two red zone carries over the past two weeks, losing one yard in the process.
Relying on a touchdown-dependent player for fantasy is inherently dangerous, but Henry should get the majority of the goal line work. This alone gives him a relatively safe floor, as touchdowns are worth so much in fantasy. That said, Henry has also been vastly more efficient than Lewis. If you’re an optimist, the Titans coaching staff will realize this and start giving more snaps to Henry.
Factors Around Henry
Of course, a running back can only do so much on his own. A sizable portion of production comes from factors outside of his control, like the play of his offensive line and his upcoming schedule. Let’s start first by taking a look at the Tennessee Titans offensive line.
Unfortunately for Henry, the Titans’ offensive line has not been its’ usual dominant force this season. Per Football Outsiders, the Titans’ offensive line ranks 26th throughout the league. Their 2.96 adjusted line yards (yards created by the offensive line) ranks an equally underwhelming 26th. This offensive line is a bad one by just about every measure, so Henry won’t have many holes to run through.
On the other side of the coin, Henry has a fairly favorable schedule the rest of the way. In Week 15, Henry and the Titans take on the New York Giants on the road. The Giants defense currently allows the seventh-most points per game to the running back position in standard scoring, which obviously is good news for Henry. Despite going 3-1 since their bye week, the Giants have not solved their run defense issues in recent weeks. Over their past four games, the New York has allowed at least 118 yards on the ground in each contest.
Week 16’s matchup against the Washington Redskins doesn’t look quite as favorable at first glance. Washington enters Week 14 allowing the 22nd-most points per game to the running back position. While that might imply Henry was in for a tough matchup, a deeper look shows he should actually play well against the Redskins.
Washington has suffered a series of catastrophic injuries which have greatly reduced the overall effectiveness of the roster. Because of this, the Redskins run defense has gotten considerably worse over the past month. Since Week 11, Washington has allowed at least 130 rushing yards to each of their opponents. Additionally, the Redskins will be forced to start third-string quarterback Mark Sanchez for the remainder of the season. This game won’t turn into a shootout with Mark Sanchez on the field, which plays favorably to Henry’s talents. Either this stays as a low-scoring game, or turns into a blowout for the Titans. Either way, Henry should have more than enough carries to be effective on championship weekend.
Last Word on Derrick Henry Rest of Season
Even though the majority of Week 14 games still need to be played, it’s safe to assume that Derrick Henry won a lot of people their fantasy matchups. The third-year running back had a game to remember after disappointing for the majority of the season. While nobody expects him to replicate that dominant performance, he can still be a serviceable flex play for the majority of the fantasy football playoffs.
Despite being more effective than Dion Lewis, the Titans coaching staff insist on playing the shiftier Lewis over Henry. This limits Henry’s ceiling, but he’s seeing enough snaps to put together solid stat lines. Ideally, the Titans will realize this and start playing Henry more, but that seems unlikely. At the very least, he’s the clear-cut red zone back who should be in a position to get a touchdown or two a game.
Henry has one of the lesser run blocking lines in the league, but that should be canceled out by a favorable schedule. The New York Giants and Washington Redskins both struggle against the run, and Henry should be able to overcome his 26th-ranked offensive line to put up decent numbers.
All this adds up to a serviceable starter who you can play in a pinch. He’s not auto-start, and you should never play him over a guy like Aaron Jones or Nick Chubb. However, if you’re pressed for depth at running back, he could make a decent RB2 or flex play. He got you through the first round of the fantasy playoffs behind a dominant performance. While he won’t do that again, he’s capable of giving you serviceable production on your quest to a fantasy championship.
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