Derrick Henry Can Hit the Over on His Season-Long Yardage Prop
Running back Derrick Henry and the Tennessee Titans took the NFL by storm last year, in a season where running the football was becoming just as popular as the pass. Henry finished as the league-leading rusher in carries (303), rushing yards (1,540), and rushing touchdowns (16) as his first full season as a starter for the Titans in 2019.
In year two as the starter, Henry's expectations have reached an all-time high and he's the favorite to lead the league in rushing for a consecutive season at +750 odds. FanDuel Sportsbook sets Henry's rushing and receiving total at 1,509.5 yards (-112), which is a respectable total considering he is one of the few running backs who are capable. Let's take a look at Henry's opportunity to reach to his 2020 totals in a contract year with Tennessee.
Henry's Outdid Himself In 2019
Henry rushing attempts skyrocketed from 215 carries in 2018 to 303 attempts in 2019 resulting in career-highs in just about every category. The Titans are expecting a second-straight ground-and-pound season, but Ezekiel Elliott is the only running back since 2014 to record multiple 300 carry seasons (2016, 18, 19) making the case for Henry more difficult.
However, it's hard not to feed the 6-foot-3 and 247-pound monster of a running back and after a one-year franchise tender, Henry needs another big season for long-term security and the Titans need somebody to carry the workload.
Henry set a career-high in receptions (18), receiving yards (206), and receiving touchdowns (2) in his first full year as a starter, after averaging 13 receptions, 124 receiving yards, and 0.33 receiving touchdowns in his first three years in the league. Henry's Net Expected Points (NEP) rose almost 13 whole points (21.92) to a career-high 34.64 on a combined 1,746 yards and 18 touchdowns.
Factor in the Titans returning all five starters from Pro Football Focus' eighth-ranked offensive line from 2019 and Henry has hope in repeating as the NFL's leading rusher.
The Titans bring back 10 of 11 offensive starters from a season ago with the only difference being without Delanie Walker at tight end. His replacement, Jonnu Smith should stretch the field for Tannehill and the offense after finishing second in the league in yards after the catch per reception with 7.54.
The Titans offense is ranked 15th overall entering 2020 in numberFire's team power rankings and ninth in rushing with Henry at the helm. numberFire projects a big repeat season for Henry and the AFC South favorite-Titans.
Looking Ahead to 2020
numberFire's model projects Henry to finish as the top rusher across the board in 2020 with 293 carries (1st), 1,379 rushing yards (1st), and 12.83 rushing touchdowns (1st). His receiving projections aren't nearly as impressive, but the 26 receptions for 226 yards and 1.2 receiving touchdowns would put him over his 1,550.5 total (1,605). It's never easy to avoid regression coming off a career season in a contract year while riding a cinderella story like Henry and Tennessee did last season.
No running back has posted multiple seasons with 1,500 rushing yards since 2015 and the last time a running back finished atop of the rushing title in back-to-back seasons was 2006-2007 (LaDainian Tomlinson). The odds are stacked against Henry to repeat as the league's leading rusher and his 2019 season was the first year a running back averaged over 100 rushing yards per game since Elliott in 2016.
Henry must average a combined 94.4 rushing and receiving yards per game to hit the over on his total yards prop on FanDuel (1,509.5, -112). That is certainly an attainable goal given the Titans called a run 49% of the time (3rd-most) in 2019 and had a 51% success rate on the ground (T-6th) per SharpFootball Stats. Henry faced an eight-man box 35.31% of the time (5th-most) in 2019, and still recorded the most rushing yards and fourth-most yards per carry (5.1) per NFL's NextGen Stats.
If this total was slightly higher or just rushing total, this would be a no-brainer for the under. Considering Henry could record 1,250 rushing yards (78.12 per game) and 250 receiving yards (15.6 per game) and still hit his mark, this prop total is favorable for bettors and Henry alike. Last season, Henry was one of eight running backs to eclipse 1,500 total yards and one of 12 backs to record 95 total yards per game or more.
Henry is surely going to regress from his 1,540-yard season rushing, but a drop off to under 1,500 yards total is too much. Henry is unlike any other back in the game when it comes to physicality, and in an offseason like no other, Henry's running style may be too much for opponents in 2020. Back the over as Henry should be one of a dozen running backs to safely surpass 90-plus total yards per game in 2020.