The biggest fantasy football shockwave of Week 8 is this morning’s news — reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter — that “Titans’ RB Derrick Henry suffered a potentially season-ending foot injury during Sunday’s 34-31 win over Indianapolis.” There’s a lot to unpack here. So let’s focus on three elements — the past, present, and future.
Past fantasy warnings about Derrick Henry’s injury risks
Those who have been following me for some time know what I’m about to say. Two years ago, I began researching every NFL RB who had earned 350+ touches in a season to assess fantasy-point regressions the following season.
The years 1977 (the final 14-game NFL season), 1981 (the year before the players’ strike), and 1986 (the year before the players’ strike that led to replacement players) were excluded, as we shouldn’t compare fantasy production among seasons when RBs could not play the same number of games. Seasons immediately preceding when players retired (e.g., Ricky Williams) or were suspended also were excluded.
The results are overwhelming: 350-plus-touch RBs average a 23% decline in fantasy points the following season, and 73% of the 350-plus-touch club experience declines. This is why I urged readers on my blog last summer to avoid Christian McCaffrey (and also Dalvin Cook and Henry).
A steady drumbeat of warnings this season has unfolded — including in our Pro Football Network fantasy newsletter, “Table for 6” — to sell high on Henry. His outsized production was unsustainable. His record-setting usage was a major yellow flag.
As savvy fantasy managers, we cannot afford to ignore probabilities. They exist for a reason.
Present fantasy implications of Henry’s injury
Expectations are that Henry’s MRI is today. We should know soon whether he’s out for the season, or only for a few weeks, or perhaps even less. Given Schefter’s reporting, we should brace for the worst.
I wrote yesterday that Jeremy McNichols is the best RB handcuff that virtually no one is rostering. That couldn’t be more true today. With Darrynton Evans back on injured reserve, McNichols could be the biggest waiver add this week.
In the meantime, if you have Henry in dynasty, you have a tough choice to make: 1) You could trade him if you want to make a playoff push this season (if your team is otherwise good enough to make a run at a title), or 2) You could hold him and hope the injury doesn’t keep him out for the start of next season.
If you’re in a redraft league, all you can do is wait. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to trade for him until his MRI results are made public. And this brings us to future implications . . .
Future fantasy implications of his injury
On a macro level, let’s use this as an opportunity to get savvier about fantasy management. When I warned readers about McCaffrey last summer, there was consistent pushback.
I heard responses like “he’s built differently than other running backs” and “he’s been healthy throughout his career.” The same claims were made about Henry this summer.
Don’t buy into claims. Don’t buy into hunches. Probabilities are probabilities. If there’s a 73% likelihood that something will happen, it’s better to trust the 73% probability than the 27% improbability.
On a micro level, if Henry misses much or all of the rest of this season, beyond adding McNichols, we should consider Tennessee trade targets. Could they acquire Marlon Mack before Tuesday’s deadline? Is Myles Gaskin on the market in Miami? It’s hard to imagine the Titans relying solely on McNichols and 26-year-old journeyman Dontrell Hilliard. But there isn’t much time left to make a move, so they’ll have to move quickly.