We knew Derrick Henry was good before last season, but in 2020 he joined one of the NFL’s most exclusive clubs. The Tennessee Titans running back became just the eighth player to rush for 2,000 yards or more, and the first since Adrian Peterson did it back in 2012 with the Vikings. (He’s the second player from this franchise to do it too; Jeff Fisher ran the legs off Chris Johnson back in 2009.) Production like that is impossible to ignore, which is why Henry check in at No. 6 on our list for 2021.
To commemorate the 2021 NFL season, we’ll be counting down the 75 best fantasy football players in the league. Picking a Top 75 is subjective, especially when you are projecting a whole season of accumulated fantasy points, but that’s part of the fun. We’ll assume what I see as an average league, which is 12 teams, .5 PPR scoring and a roster of 1QB, 2RB, 3WR, 1TE, & 1RB/WR/TE. Kickers and defenses need not apply.
Change is the nature of the NFL beast, so trades and injuries will likely impact this list as we go along, but hey, this isn’t rocket science. We’re here to have a little fun and build up some much needed anticipation for a league cast in the shadow by baseball, soccer, hockey, etc. Sarcasm aside, the NFL is addictive and we’re here to give your daily fix as we close in on the season.
The official fantasy football drafting tiers can be found here.
No. 6, Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans, RB
Henry rolled up 2,027 on 378 carries last season, giving him an impressive 5.4 yards per carry to boot. He also led the league with 17 rushing touchdowns, the second year he was best in that category. His contributions in the passing game are more limited, to say the least. Henry caught 19 passes for 114 yards and no touchdowns last year. But even in a world of dual-threat backs, Henry’s production as a runner makes him one of the best bets in fantasy football.
Competition for touches
There’s nobody else who’s going to take the ball out of Henry’s hands when the Titans are running. Jeremy McNichols had 47 rushing attempts, the second most on the team, followed by quarterback Ryan Tannehill with 43. Tannehill did add seven rushing touchdowns, so it’s imaginable that Henry could have had even more.
Team offensive expectations
The Titans offense looks different this season thanks to the addition of Julio Jones, who gives them two top-flight No. 1 wide receivers with Jones and A.J. Brown. The offense is going to have to do the heavy lifting to keep the Titans in the hunt for a Super Bowl bid, so there should be more than enough work for Henry, even if the new addition does signal a team planning to throw more.
What’s his upside?
We saw it last season. It’s hard to ask a running back to produce any more than that. Henry’s one of those running backs that were the centerpiece of an NFL offense 15 years ago. He runs violently, punishing anyone who dares to tackle him. He’s also pretty fast, as running backs who regularly break 60+ tackles per year tend to be.
What’s his downside?
The downside for Henry this season is going to be the wear and tear from the last two years. He had 397 total touches last season, an incredibly high workload for a running back to sustain. If he can stay healthy for a full season, it’s hard to repeat a number like that. Of all the 2,000-yard rushers, the best follow up season belongs to Barry Sanders who posted 1,491 in 16 games in 1998 ... and called it quits after that year. Setting all that aside, the Titans offense is most likely going to reroute some of those carries to passes for their new receiving duo.
340 carries; 1,450 yards; 12 touchdowns.