Derrick Henry proved that he belonged in the conversation of elite running backs after the 2019 season, yet he still doesn’t get the respect that he deserves.
Tennessee Titans running back, Derrick Henry, won the league’s rushing title in 2019 after leading the league with 1,540 rushing yards and tying for the most rushing touchdowns with 16. Usually, that would qualify a running back as elite, or at least in the conversation, but not Henry.
Pro Football Focus’ Dwain McFarland ranked NFL running backs in tiers ahead of the 2020 season. Henry wasn’t ranked in the first tier; he wasn’t even ranked in the second tier. Henry was ranked all the way in tier three, and McFarland explains why.
"“The only potential flaw for Derrick Henry is his splits when the Titans drop back to pass — which was about 55% of the time in 2019. He was the fourth-most-reliant running back on run-heavy splits among the top 24 PPR backs,” McFarland said.“He averaged a brutish 4.2 yards per carry after contact over the past two seasons. It is tough to hold the big man down from an efficiency standpoint. His touchdowns per attempt over the past two seasons — 5.6% and 5.2%, respectively — also ranked among the best in the NFL.“Henry has a shot at extracting additional pass-down snaps with the departure of Dion Lewis but will have to beat out rookie Darrynton Evans. He catapults to Tier 1 and has a ceiling of the top fantasy back overall if that happens.”"
It’s hard to agree with someone that ranks Kenyan Drake and Miles Sanders above the rushing champion. I wouldn’t take either of those running backs over Henry in a million years. Yet, they’re more involved in the passing game so McFarland ranked them above Henry.
Sure, being able to catch passes and get upfield quickly for five to ten yards is nice, but it’s not why you draft a running back. You draft a running back to run, and that’s something that Henry does really well. In fact, he’s one of the best in the league in doing that.
Henry had the most stacked boxes against him in 2019 and still led the league in rushing. That’s what a top-tier running back does. Henry is extremely underrated in this ranking, but if that means he’s going to be overlooked again in 2020, then that’s fine by me. Let him lead the league in rushing again, and you’re going to watch the Titans go to the AFC Championship again.