Ever since Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry suffered a broken foot in the Titans week eight game against the Indianapolis Colts, the NFL world has been buzzing about how much more Henry has in the tank.
To make matter worse, Jonathan Taylor of the division rival Colts had a break out season in Henry’s absence, which not only had Taylor in MVP conversations, but also stirred the pot, and sparked the debate on who the best back in football is.
While fans and media like to bicker online, the truth is that nobody knows the NFL like the players and coaches who make up the teams themselves.
And the jury has reached a verdict…
With training camp approaching, ESPN interviewed 50 league executives, coaches, scouts and players in order to determine the best players in the game at every position.
ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler released a recent article with the results on running backs, and according to his peers, Derrick Henry is still The King:
Age: 28 | Last year’s ranking: 1
Henry and Jonathan Taylor tied for the most first-place votes this year, but Henry won out on composite scoring. He was pacing for a 1,900-plus-yard season in 2021 before a foot injury cost him nine regular-season games.
“I’d still give him one more year at the top,” an NFL coordinator said. “He’s the constant for that offense no matter who’s around him. I still trust him to make it happen above anyone else. You can give him the ball 30 times and he won’t disappoint.”
Although Jonathan Taylor has emerged as an elite rusher in Indianapolis, it should be a surprise to nobody that Henry was still awarded the crown.
While Taylor led the league in both rushing yards (1,811) and touchdowns (18) last season, that likely wouldn’t have been the case if Henry had not been injured for the second half of the regular season.
Henry was the league leader in yards per game with 117.1. That’s almost 11 yards more than Taylor las year. It’s also very likely that Henry (who scored 10 in eight games) would have exceeded 20 rushing touchdowns in a full season.
Over the past four years, Henry has averaged more than one rushing touchdown per game (55 scores in 51 games).
Numbers aside, there’s also something to be said about Henry’s involvement and dominance within the Titans’ offense. For the third straight season, Henry led the NFL in touches per game, averaging 27.4 touches in 2021. That’s eight more than the next highest player in the league.
He is unquestionably relied upon more than any other non-quarterback offensive player in football, and consistently been the most dominating force possible for his team.
According to the NFL personnel interviewed, that factored in heavily to their decision:
“I go Henry because everyone knows he is running the ball and their offensive line has been injured and it largely doesn’t matter.”
– NFC executive
While some have chose to question how much Henry has left in the tank, there have been no signs of him slowing down anytime soon. At Titans mandatory minicamp, Henry told media that he feels 100% healthy and more motivated than ever.
With questions remaining about the Titans wide receivers and passing game, I expect an even bigger year with even more pressure from The King in 2022.
It’s time to throw the recency bias out the window and remind the world why ranking Derrick Henry anywhere but number one is unacceptable.
Image via Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports