Derrick Henry’s dynasty value is at a crossroads entering the 2022 season. After two of the most impressive seasons of all time, Henry didn’t make it through 2021. Undoubtedly on the back nine of his career, how should dynasty fantasy football managers value Henry going forward?
Derrick Henry’s dynasty profile for 2022
Henry is a very interesting case in dynasty. The Tennessee Titans RB came into the 2021 season as a consensus top-four pick in redraft leagues. His 2019 and 2020 campaign were truly transcendent but also served to prove he did not have overall RB1 upside. Henry averaged 20 PPR fantasy points per game in 2019 and 20.9 ppg in 2020. He finished as the RB3 (minimum eight games played) both seasons.
Then, in 2021, something changed. Henry’s passing-game usage went up, and all of a sudden, he had overall RB1 upside. He was on pace for the best season of his career. Henry caught as many passes (18) in half a season as he did in any other full season of his career. Even this moderate increase in receiving work morphed Henry into a guy that could be the best running back in fantasy.
Henry averaged 23.4 ppg last season. Unfortunately, it was only across eight games as Henry broke his foot on Halloween. Henry suffered a Jones fracture, which has a very high rate of reinjury. The good news is Henry was able to return for the postseason and did not rebreak his foot. With a full offseason to heal, he will be 100% for the start of the 2022 season.
The bad news is Henry’s usage may be starting to catch up to him. Between 2019 and 2020, Henry touched the ball an absurd 718 times. In 2021, he was on pace for his highest touch count yet. In just half a season, Henry amassed 237 touches. Can fantasy managers still trust Henry to stay on the field and produce?
Fantasy projection for Henry
Henry’s career got off to a slow start. The Titans buried him behind DeMarco Murray for the beginning of his career. Then, they inexplicably pushed Dion Lewis ahead of him for half a season before fully committing to Henry down the stretch in 2018.
For dynasty managers in 2022, the Titans’ illogical decision to marginalize Henry early in his career is paying dividends now. Despite his massive volume the past three seasons, Henry’s total mileage is still not as high as it could be. By way of comparison, Ezekiel Elliott, also drafted in 2016, has 443 more career touches than Henry.
Henry was ineffective after returning rather quickly from his foot fracture, rushing for just 62 yards on 20 carries in the playoffs. However, it was his first live football game in over two months at the time. Entering the 2022 season, I have full confidence Henry will be his usual dominant RB1 self.
The Titans have a very consolidated offense. The vast majority of touches will go to A.J. Brown, Robert Woods, and Henry. Their lack of wide receiver depth — combined with Henry’s effectiveness as a pass catcher in 2021 — should compel the Titans to continue using Henry as a receiver. If that continues, he is a surefire top-five running back with overall RB1 upside for at least the next two seasons.
What is Henry’s future beyond 2022?
This is the real concern for Henry’s dynasty managers in 2022. Henry is now 28 years old. His touch count may not be as high as it could be, but he’s taking massive punishment every season. He was on pace for over 450 touches in 2021.
Henry’s body is far more equipped than most humans to handle that workload, but every touch is an opportunity for something to go wrong. The odds get higher and higher with more volume.
The Titans have Henry signed through his age-29 season. That’s all fantasy managers should really concern themselves with. We have to operate on the assumption Henry can only remain an elite fantasy asset for two more years. It’s unrealistic to expect him to do this at age 30 and beyond.
For dynasty managers, the key is determining whether Henry has more value producing for your team the next two seasons or bringing in a haul in a trade.
What can fantasy managers expect from Henry?
Henry is an elite RB1 for the next two seasons. I’m confident in saying that. At the same time, I’m not confident in Henry being able to hold up physically under this massive workload. That leads to one of two logical endpoints.
The Titans can run Henry into the ground, letting him go as far as he can. That will result in more fantasy production but increase his injury risk. Or, the Titans can opt to reduce his usage in an effort to extend his career. That will result in less fantasy production, but a greater likelihood he remains on the field and in your lineup. If I had to hazard a guess on which approach they take, I would put my money on the former.
For dynasty managers, Henry needs to be on a win-now team. We have conversations about 25 and 26-year-old running backs and whether they’re worth holding onto during a rebuild. If your team isn’t poised to compete for a championship this season, you just can’t keep a 28-year-old running back, no matter how good he is.
If you’re a dynasty manager ready to win in 2022, keep Henry if you have him, and consider making a play for him if you don’t. Henry remains a borderline RB1 in dynasty rankings, but he’s far more valuable on a contending team than one in the midst of a rebuild.
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