Derrick Henry’s fantasy outlook and projection for 2021

Derrick Henry is one of the best running backs in the NFL -- can he deliver on the promise of his lofty ADP and fantasy outlook in 2021?

According to Pro Football Reference, Tennessee Titans RB Derrick Henry is only the eighth player to have a 2,000-yard season in NFL history. The running backs who have accomplished this feat have underperformed in the season following this milestone. Can Henry be an outlier at his fantasy football outlook and ADP in 2021?

Derrick Henry’s fantasy outlook for 2021

Henry averaged 25.6 opportunities, 134 total yards, and 21 PPR fantasy points per game last season. He may not catch passes, but he’s finished as an RB1 in 56% of his games in 2020. Henry also led all running backs with 21 rushing attempts of 15+ yards.

If Henry wins the rushing title for the third consecutive year, he will become the fifth player in NFL history to do so. Hall of Famers Emmitt Smith, Earl Campbell, Jim Brown, and Steven Van Buren are the only players to accomplish this achievement.

Since 2018, Henry leads all running backs in rushing attempts (896), rushing yards (4,626), and rushing touchdowns (45). He’s averaged an astounding 5.2 yards per carry.

The Titans finished last season ranked fifth in total yards (385.4) and fourth in points scored (29.6) per game. The only team who averaged more rushing attempts per game than the Titans (32) were the Ravens (34.6).

What will the Titans’ offense look like with Todd Downing at the helm?

You may be wondering if this trend will continue with former Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith now the Falcons head coach. Multiple reports suggest that it will with new OC Todd Downing.

This was the second time in three seasons that head coach Mike Vrabel will promote his tight ends coach to offensive coordinator. The 40-year-old Downing does have experience as an NFL offensive coordinator. He held the role back in 2017 under head coach Jack Del Rio. Given the success the Titans have had offensively, it would be surprising to see Downing deviate from the pass-to-run ratio from last season.

The Titans’ offensive line is one of the best in the NFL

The Titans deployed one of the top offensive lines in the NFL in 2020. Tennessee saw extensive improvement from this unit last year. The Titans’ run blocking paved the way for Henry to accumulate 2,027 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns. The unit was also excellent in pass protection, giving up 31 fewer sacks.

Tennessee also gets a boost with the return of Taylor Lewan from injury. The Titans have four returning starters and healthy competition at the right tackle position. Tennessee’s offensive line is looking great heading into 2021.

Henry is unlikely to be used as a receiver out of the backfield

Henry has only averaged 1.6 targets per game since 2018. It would be surprising to see him suddenly be used as a receiver out of the backfield. However, this is an area where Darrynton Evans could help in 2021. As a reminder, the Titans drafted him No. 93 overall in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Derrick Henry’s fantasy projection

Henry projects for around 330 rushing attempts, 1,600 rushing yards, and 14 rushing touchdowns in 2021. Additionally, he could receive 38 targets, 28 receptions, 175 receiving yards, and 1  receiving touchdown.

Derrick Henry’s ADP

Henry is the third running back off the board when you review redraft ADP data from Fleaflicker. This trend is similar in pay-to-play fantasy formats such as the National Fantasy Championship, where Henry has an ADP of 4.39 as the RB4 overall. Meanwhile, Henry’s ADP in half PPR formats on Sleeper is 3.5.

Should you draft Henry in 2021?

The only other running backs I’d draft over Henry would be Christian McCaffrey and Dalvin Cook. Henry can be a consistent starter for your fantasy football team week in and week out next season.

Eric is a Senior Fantasy Analyst for Pro Football Network and a member of the FSWA (Fantasy Sports Writers Association). You can read more of his work here and follow Eric on Twitter @EricNMoody.

Eric Moody is a Senior Fantasy Analyst for Pro Football Network and a member of the FSWA (Fantasy Sports Writers Association). He is also the co-host of the In The Mood for Fantasy Football podcast. You can read more of his work here and follow Eric on Twitter @EricNMoody.