Every year, there are players that dynasty owners and analysts alike begin to tout as the next big thing. Sometimes it’s a highly anticipated rookie like Ezekiel Elliot in 2015. It can also be a player that moved to a new team via free agency or trade like some thought Jeremy Maclin was last season. Or, it could be a player who’s been waiting to capture the starting job from an established vet at his position. That player is gone, and now it’s the young guy’s turn to step up and be the next big fantasy stud. This year, that player seems to be Titans’ running back, Derrick Henry.
Henry is a hulking mass of a man at 6’3” and 247 pounds playing running back in the NFL. Drafted 45th overall by the Titans in the 2016 NFL draft, he was one of the highest regarded backs in that class. However, before the draft that year, the Titans also traded for veteran RB Demarco Murray from the Eagles that included a pick swap in the 4th round. While the price of the trade wasn’t too bad, that price of Murray’s contract was. In 2015, Murray had signed a 5 year, $42 million deal with the Eagles. With that kind of contract, Murray was thrown into the starting role right away, with Henry mostly coming in to spell him. In Henry’s first 2 seasons, he’s only logged 286 carries for 1234 rushing yards. For the guy who was a bell cow at Alabama, that’s a big change of pace for him.
With Demarco Murray having a huge cap hit of over $6 million this season and the team having no dead money in cutting him, it looks like he’s a cap casualty. That means Henry is finally going to take over the lead back role in Tennessee, right? RIGHT? I’m not so sure. The Titans fired extremely boring head coach Mike Mularky after a 2017 campaign that ended in a playoff loss to New England in the second round of the playoffs. By all accounts, that’s not a bad season. However, fans and the front office had seen enough of Mularky’s horrible play calling and inexplicable use of an aging and unsuccessful Demarco Murray. With a young QB in Marcus Mariota and young weapons around him, it’s not unfair to ask more than the 23rd ranked offense in yards per game and 19th in points scored. Looking to a younger, more vibrant future, the Titans hired former Texans defensive coordinator in Mike Vrabel.
In Vrabel’s opening press conference, he made it clear that he was going to make an offense tailored to Mariota’s strengths. He spoke about incorporating college style philosophies that Mariota will be used to, including a lot of running the ball, read options, and run-pass-options. This is a stark contrast to what Mularky would run, which was much more like an old school pro style offense. A lot of lining up in the I and running it off guard with a lead fullback. With Vrabel’s implementations, we can expect to see a lot more shotgun, pistol, and maybe no fullback on the roster at all. Derrick Henry is not used to running a ton of snaps out of the shotgun. How will this affect Henry going into 2018? Personally, I think Vrabel and co. might consider trading the young star.
Recent history shows that head coaches coming into new teams can make large roster moves in order to get players that fit their schemes. In 2015, Chip Kelly made a ton of moves to his Eagles’ roster. Kelly let his top two receivers go by releasing Desean Jackson and letting Jeremy Maclin leave via free agency. He traded his leading rusher, Lesean McCoy, for oft-injured linebacker Kiko Alonso. Nick Foles was sent in a deal including a 2nd and 4th rounder for Sam Bradford. Finally, he acquired RB Demarco Murray in free agency. This season we had a similar situation. The Bills hired former Panthers DC Sean McDermott to be their head coach. He’s made a bunch of moves including trading away CB Ronald Darby and DT Marcell Dareus whilst acquiring WR Kelvin Benjamin. All of these moves affected their team and many others as well.
Could Mike Vrabel be the next coach to make some big roster changes in order to bring in the players he feels can make the Titans successful? I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibilities at all. A new scheme that is sure to utilize a faster pace and a lot of no huddle doesn’t necessarily bode well for Henry’s massive frame. I can definitely see the Titans signing a smaller, faster back with great catching ability in free agency. They may also look toward the draft. Jerrick McKinnon and Akrum Wadley could be options for the Titans in both FA and the draft if they decide to go this route. Even if the Titans don’t trade Henry, this faster pace offense could severely hinder his upside going into 2018. He’s a massive sell for me right now in dynasty.