Derrick Henry and Ryan Tannehill were the most important free agents for the Tennessee Titans this offseason, and as a result, the team was quick to keep both under contract for at least the 2020 season. Tannehill received a team-friendly four-year, $118 million contract, and the Titans used their franchise tag on Henry after the two sides couldn’t agree to terms on a long-term deal.
One could argue that Derrick Henry was more deserving of the long-term contract, but the two sides are still in the negotiating process to make that happen. One thing that can’t be argued about Henry and Tannehill is how dominant they are when on the field at the same time.
With Tannehill locked in as Tennessee’s QB1 this upcoming season, what does that mean for the former Alabama running back’s fantasy value in 2020?
Derrick Henry and Marcus Mariota didn’t mix
Marcus Mariota and the rest of the Titans started off the year hot in 2019. With a blowout win over the new-look Cleveland Browns in Week 1, fans were excited for what the future held with the former No. 2 overall pick at quarterback.
Unfortunately, those high expectations soon came to an abrupt halt as Tennessee went on a 1-4 run over its next five weeks. During that period, Henry struggled to be a viable fantasy option at the running back position. He checked in as the RB20 in PPR formats and averaged only a mediocre 11.8 fantasy points per game in those contests.
A lot of Henry’s shortcomings had to do with the team’s lack of scoring during Tennessee’s slump. Mariota was ineffective as the starter, and this allowed opposing defenses to focus almost exclusively on stopping Henry and the run. In fact, the 6-foot-3, 247-pound bruiser faced a stacked box on over 35-percent of his rushing attempts in 2019. He was still productive under the circumstances, but almost certainly would have benefited from consistent play from the quarterback position.
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Ryan Tannehill comes to the rescue
When Tannehill took over the starting job for Mariota in Week 7, Henry’s fantasy value surprisingly (at least at the time) skyrocketed. He went from averaging that 11.8 points per game to 23 in PPR formats over the course of the rest of the season. That was good enough to rank Henry as RB2 from Weeks 7-17.
In fact, the only player who ranked ahead of him was Christian McCaffrey, who had the second-best fantasy season of all time. Teams still attempted to stack the box in order to try and stop Henry, but Tannehill was able to take advantage of the defensive’s pre-snap alignment and keep them honest. Henry’s yards per attempt increased with Tannehill under center, and the Titans offense came to life.
How will Ryan Tannehill look in 2020?
Now with Tannehill expected to be under center for all 16 games, Henry’s 2020 season looks very promising. If you were to remove Henry’s first six games with Mariota as the starting quarterback and apply Henry’s average points per game with Tannehill, he would have tallied a total of 345 points. That mark would have ranked him as RB2 and the No. 5 overall player in fantasy football.
With defenses having to put more of a focus on Tannehill and other rising stars such as second-year receiver A.J. Brown and tight end Jonnu Smith, look for the running lanes to open up more consistently for Henry in 2020. In fact, he has improved as a rusher every season since entering the league, and at this point, there is no reason to believe that this won’t continue to be the case in 2020.
2020 Fantasy Outlook For Derrick Henry
The 2019 season was a rollercoaster for Henry’s fantasy owners, and it’s safe to say that consistency is what those owners will be looking for in 2020. His upside is somewhat capped in PPR leagues due to the lack of targets and receptions in the passing game, but he should still remain a top-tier option in that format.
In standard scoring leagues, Henry should be considered a viable option in the top five. What is going to make or break his fantasy value are touchdowns and game script. Henry led the league in rushing attempts last year with 303 and also tied for the most rushing touchdowns with 16. He’s due for a bit of regression in both areas, but those numbers shouldn’t look all that different this season.
Henry is one of the safest picks available due to his role already being established, and he’s going to benefit from consistent quarterback play for the first time in his career. Draft him with confidence as a RB1.