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Derrick Henry - Fantasy Football Legend

Fantasy football legends come in all different shapes, sizes, and skill levels. Sometimes it's the stars that shine even brighter when all eyes are on them. We saw this with Todd Gurley last season. Other times, it's the guys who fall into a bigger role due to unforeseen circumstances. It's how we saw Damien Williams, Jamaal Williams, and a fresh-off-the-couch C.J. Anderson cement themselves as fantasy legends this season.

My personal fantasy football legend is Joe Webb. I was playing for a fantasy championship in my first money league back in 2010, and all I needed was for the Philadelphia defense to lose a few of the automatic 10 points defenses get in fantasy. They faced off against the Vikings on Monday Night Football. With Brett Favre on the sidelines, I put all my faith into an unproven rookie making his first NFL start to lead me to the promised land. Webb (with some help from Adrian Peterson) was able to hang 24 points the Eagles, and I won my first title.

Joe Webb's fantasy legacy is a bizarre one. But it isn't as bizarre as what Derrick Henry did in the 2018 fantasy football playoffs as a player who was benched by most and dropped by some before his late-season explosion cemented him in the fantasy Hall of Fame.

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Troubled Beginnings

When the Titans drafted Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry back in 2016, many anticipated he would take the starting job from DeMarco Murray at some point in the season. He didn't, as Murray wound up having the second-best season of his career. The duo began spitting carries in 2017. Henry had the occasional flashes of greatness, but didn't fully emerge onto the scene as a lead back until a Wild Card matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs where he ran for a career-high 156 yards and a touchdown.

Henry seemed destined for a starting role following this game. The Titans released DeMarco Murray on March 8. This allowed Henry to become Tennessee's definitive feature back... for a week. The Titans complicated matters by signing Dion Lewis just one week after cutting Murray.

Fantasy players were still buying up stock in Derrick Henry regardless, and he ended up having a fourth-round ADP this year. This started out awful for anyone who drafted Henry. He didn't score double-digit points in the first six games. He didn't run for over 60 yards once during the first 13 weeks of the season. If he wasn't in the end zone, he wasn't helping. He was, at best, a touchdown-dependent flex option, and you can't fault anyone for dropping Henry at some point during the first 13 weeks of the year.

The stage was not set for a glorious playoff run. It was set for Henry to potentially be out of a job next season. Anyone who started Henry in Week 14 was either incredibly desperate or hadn't set their lineup since Week 1.

 

Mr. December

Henry's glorious run began with one of the greatest Thursday Night Football performances we've ever seen. He ran for 238 yards and four touchdowns in one game. In an era where multi-dimensional backs dominate fantasy matchups, Henry didn't even need to catch a pass to have the best game from a running back this season. Keep in mind this also came against the Jacksonville Jaguars, one of the best defenses in the league.

It's hard to comprehend this performance even a few weeks later. Henry quadrupled his previous high of 58 yards this season. He became the second running back in NFL history to rush for a 99-yard touchdown. Even if Henry didn't have the 99-yard run, he would have more than doubled his previous season high. He's the only player in the NFL to score four total touchdowns in a game this season, and the only player not named Todd Gurley to score four total touchdowns in a game since 2016. He's the first running back to rush for four touchdowns in a game since Jonas Gray, who might be the only player who was less-likely than Henry to notch a 200+ yard, four touchdown performance.

Gray is interesting to note here, because his moment of fantasy glory was literally the only good game he ever had in the NFL. Owners who either had Henry on their bench or grabbed him off waivers had a decision to make. Was Henry going to go the way of Jonas Gray back in 2014, or go the way of Todd Gurley last season?

Anybody who trusted Henry to start for them in the fantasy semi-finals was rewarded. Henry had the second-best game of his career, rushing for 170 yards and two touchdowns against the Giants. If you didn't play Henry against the Giants, you had to start him in the fantasy championship.

Imagine saying a month ago that Derrick Henry was a must-start in the fantasy championship? And Dion Lewis didn't even get hurt? Henry capped-off his incredible three-week run with 84 yards and a touchdown. He finished the three-week run with 492 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. In his first 12 games this season, Henry had 474 rushing yards and five touchdowns.

 

Beyond the Run

For those of you still playing in Week 17, you have to start Derrick Henry. You can't bench him after the run he's had. To quote Mike D'Antoni during "Linsanity," the Titans are going to "ride him like he's friggen Secretariat." You'd have to basically have all the best active players in the NFL to keep Henry on your bench. Don't expect 238 yards and four touchdowns, but certainly expect something in between what he did in Weeks 15 and 16. Henry is going to continue to eat.

For those in keeper or dynasty leagues, you have a tough decision to make. Henry's value may never be higher than it is right now. You should listen to what's out there. See if you can draw something crazy for him. In Dynasty leagues especially, I'd try and move him for an up-and-coming receiver. It isn't ridiculous to think you can sucker somebody into trading JuJu Smith-Schuster for Henry right now. People are quick to jump at a potential RB1.

That's what Henry is right now: a potential RB1. Henry could easily a top back next year even if he only sustains 70% of what he's doing right now. Owners strapped at the running back position may be better off just riding this thing out. We all know the risks at this point, but sometimes guys just figure it out at unforeseen times. Henry may be growing up right in front of our eyes.

 

A Legendary Tale

If I told you three years ago that Henry would do something like this, you might have believed me. If I told you that three weeks ago, I may have been banned from writing on this website. Henry going 0-to-100 this quickly is one of the most shocking on-the-field fantasy developments I've ever seen.

There are two ways Henry can go from here. The first is joining the likes of Todd Gurley, Jamaal Charles, and even Clinton Portis as guys who had incredible fantasy playoff runs during the course of great careers. The second is to join the likes of Steve Slaton's rookie year, LeGarrette Blount's 18-touchdown season, and of course the Jonas Gray game as something we look back on in awe that it actually happened. Let's hope it's the former.

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