It’s that time again football fans, when the takes are hot and the beer is cold. For the hottest take of them all, I’m here to convince you that Derrick Henry and Rishard Matthews are the players to own in the Titans offense. We’ll look at the defense at another time for the IDPers.
DeMarco Murray had a great year for Tennessee in 2016, playing on 81.02% of the team’s offense snaps per Pro Football Reference. He finished the season having played all 16 games for only the second time in his career, racking up 1,287 yards, nine touchdowns, and tying the league for third with 293 carries. He was also fourth on the Titans in number of targets in the passing game with 67, finishing with 53 receptions for 377 yards and three touchdowns.
Why then am I telling you to fade Murray? At age 29 and entering his seventh season, Murray has a big ole bullseye on his back. Father Time loves going after running backs flirting with the big three O coming off a high-usage season where they fade down the stretch. Dealing with a hammy, Murray looked tentative at times in his first action of the preseason.
Enter Derrick Henry, the second-year running back out of Alabama who played just 25% of the offensive snaps in his rookie season. Despite limited usage, Henry looked the part with 110 carries for 490 yards and five touchdowns. He also finished just a tad bit higher in yards per carry over Murray with 4.5 to Murray’s 4.4.
The one area where Henry wasn’t as effective was in the passing game, which could be Murray’s saving grace. With only 15 targets, 13 receptions and 137 yards with no touchdowns, Henry didn’t see as much action. Interestingly enough, however, is that his yards per catch also exceeded Murrays’ with 10.5 versus 7.1.
If the Titans are smart (debatable) they could use Henry more in the running game allowing Murray to continue his role in the passing game. With rookie wideout Corey Davis still nursing a balky hammy and Eric Decker (ankle) also ailing, the Titans could frankly use the help there.
Regardless, this is likely Murray’s last year as a Titan based on how his contract is structured. All of his guaranteed money drops off after this year and with a base salary of $6.5 million in 2018, plus incentives – unless he has another monster year and can defeat Ole Man Time – at age 30 it seems less likely the Titans would be willing to pay that amount.
Henry is the future and the Titans need to see what they have in him sooner rather than later. They have every incentive to give him work with third-year quarterback Marcus Mariota who is also the Titans’ future. Henry could easily have the better fantasy football season even if Murray gets and stays healthy. With Murray’s ADP at 6 and Henry’s average around 30, you could get a legit steal here.