Derrick Henry is easily one of the most polarizing players in all of fantasy football, and I’m not even referring to the difference in his ranks between non-PPR and PPR. There is a very large group of fantasy players that think Derrick Henry is destined to be the next “elite” RB for our game within a game, while others think he’s a flash in the pan. Does this new contract extension change the thinking around Henry’s fantasy value going forward?[sv slug=mocksim]
Fantasy impact of Derrick Henry’s contract extension
Based on his 2019 output, where he ranked number one at the position in terms of Pro Football Network’s Offensive Share Metric in 2019, it’s hard to argue against Henry being a potential stud for your fantasy team. However, the main question is whether he will be able to keep that pace up going forward? Apparently the Tennessee Titans think so, as they appear to have agreed to a contract extension right before the deadline today, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, news which was later confirmed as a four-year $50 million deal. This move is a solid endorsement of the Titans’ opinion of Henry from a pure football standpoint.
Leading up to today’s deadline there was a lot of talk as to whether Henry would play out this season under the franchise tag or if the two sides could come to a longer-term agreement. Almost everyone expected him to play in 2020 though, so he was still much less risky than names such as Dalvin Cook or Joe Mixon who have mentioned sitting out without a new contract in place. Therefore, Henry getting a new contract doesn’t change much of his 2020 fantasy value, but beyond that, it makes a huge difference.
In terms of his dynasty value, managers have been dying to know if he would re-sign as a member of the Titans or if he would change teams and potentially split time with someone else in 2021 and beyond. Once the Titans drafted Darryton Evans in the third round of the 2020 draft, the talk about Henry’s dynasty demise grew even louder. To many, drafting Evans was a sign that Henry was likely done in Tennessee after this season, which is clearly not the case now.
Another piece of the puzzle is the improved passing game, led by Ryan Tannehill last year and assisted by the rise of rookie AJ Brown. In the NFL, everything exists in a balance, and you could argue that the only reason their passing game had the success it did was that Henry was such a rushing threat. This is what makes Henry such a vital part of the offense as a whole and helped get them as far in the playoffs as they did. Whether Tannehill and this passing offense would have the same level of success without a generational talent like Henry was an interesting question, but is now a moot point.
Tannehill was an immediate beneficiary of their playoff run, securing a four-year, $118 million deal and avoiding the franchise tag himself, thus setting the stage for the team to use it on Henry. Now that the Titans have signed Henry, people will start to wonder if they made the right decision. Either way, both players should have a solid 2020 for fantasy, but now that both are signed to longer deals, the future looks that much brighter in Tennessee.[sv slug=”dynastysocial”]
The impact on Henry’s dynasty value
From a dynasty standpoint, franchise tags don’t matter too much, outside of the long term effects to a player’s perceived value as a stable asset. As dynasty managers, we always want to retain as much value as possible as the real players go through their own contract negotiations. No one wants to be left holding the bag when a player either holds out (Le’Veon Bell in 2018) or gets cut and no one picks them up (Devonta Freeman in 2020).
Over the course of his rookie contract, Henry has steadily got better and better from a fantasy perspective. If we examine Henry’s Fantasy Point Differential (FPD) across his career, which compares his fantasy output to what we would expect on average for a player receiving the same number of carries and receptions, then an impressive trend stands out. Henry has outperformed his expected fantasy points (xFP) by at least 15% in three of his four seasons in the league. In the past two years, where he has seen his workload increase his FPD was 27% and 36% above average in 2018 and 2019 respectively.
What is also impressive is that in the last two seasons his fantasy point output on rushing plays has been remarkably consistent. In 2018 and 2019, Henry averaged 0.83 fantasy points per run play, up from 0.59 in 2017. His contribution in the passing game has been less consistent, but when Henry has been handed the ball in the last two years he has been an extremely consistent producer for fantasy owners.
So in the end, Henry’s signing is only a good thing for his dynasty owners, but just how good? Henry is still a large part of the running game in Tennessee but is almost non-existent in the passing game. This contract isn’t likely to change that. Henry is only 26 so he’s got a few years before he falls off the RB age cliff, but can he produce at this level for the rest of his contract while not adding much value in the passing game? That’s impossible to know for sure, but the history of the position would suggest that his value beyond the next couple of years remains questionable:
Part 2 – Player Longevity
To nobody's surprise, QB is king in this department.
I took the top 24 POSITIONAL finishes from 2000-2019, leading to a sample of 480 players at each position. Then, I graphed the number of top 24 finishes verse age, resulting in the graphs below: pic.twitter.com/R7J09wtLBY
— Luke Neuendorf (@lukeneuendorf) May 23, 2020
This extension for Henry presents an opportunity to shop him around and see if anyone takes this news as a time to buy high on him. If you are looking to add Henry to your team, then this is probably not the best time to do that. His current owner will likely be asking for more than they would have yesterday. Either way, Henry’s value gets a slight bump with this news. However, given the volatility of the running back position after the age of 24, this is not a time to sell the future of your team in an attempt to acquire Henry in dynasty leagues.
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