The Tennessee Titans are coming into their own. Tennessee’s defense leaves something to be desired with only 26 turnovers last season and just 39 sacks, but this team is going to be built on the offensive side of the ball. The Titans posted a 9-7 record last season, riding on Marcus Mariota’s 26 touchdowns to 9 interceptions, and a running game that is proving to be the envy of the AFC South. The biggest question now, who will lead the backfield and help bring the Titans to their first playoff appearance since 2003? Let’s start with the youngster of the duo. Derrick Henry came into the league last year and in 15 games posted 490 rushing yards on 110 carries. That brings him to a 4.5 YPC average. This is a very impressive statistic that Henry was able to accomplish in his rookie season, but break that down over the entire season, and Henry was averaging only 32 yards a game.
Henry was able to add 5 touchdowns to his statistics which raised his fantasy value considerably, add that to 137 yards on 13 receptions through the air for an average of over 10 yards a catch and you can look at this young man and think “there is the future.” A 2016 rookie coming in behind, albeit aging, yet a beast of an NFL running back and proving that he can produce in this league could make a fantasy owner jump at the chance of having him on the roster. However, does this give Henry more fantasy value than his predecessor? Folks, I ask you to take a few seconds to consider that.
DeMarco Murray has established himself as a fantasy beast in his 6-year career. Although he has played only 2 complete seasons, Murray was able to post over 1,000 yards in three of his career campaigns averaging 10 touchdowns in each of those seasons. Murray has averaged 4.7 yards per carry in his entire career, and nearly 5.0 YPC in his three seasons over 1,000 yards. In the three seasons Murray ran for less than 1,000 yards, he received less than 170 rushing attempts, yet was still able to average 6 touchdowns and 754 yards in those years.
For the last three seasons of his career Murray has been healthy, and besides the one year he was left to flounder under Chip Kelly in Philly, he has proven that he is the go-to-guy for production on the ground. While Murray’s statistics through the air haven’t been anything to sneeze at in his career, he has averaged 7.1 yards a catch throughout his career.
Derrick Henry carries a good amount of fantasy value, however given the trends over the last season there is no indication that the Titans are leaning towards giving him the ball more. Henry and Murray’s attempts were very consistent throughout the year and by the end of the season it was obvious that Henry was a great punctuation mark to the grinding of DeMarco Murray. Now here will come the Henry supporters saying “Oh Eric, Murray only had 4 more rushing touchdowns than Henry last season, he is getting old and Henry is the future!”
I see where you are coming from, out of the 14 rushing touchdowns between the duo Henry posted 5 seemingly stripping a lot of fantasy value from Murray. However, all of these touchdowns came from short yard runs that were set up by the offense. This makes Henry a touchdown vulture, but in my opinion, does not diminish the value of Murray. No one should draft DeMarco Murray as a RB1. Henry may scoop-up some touchdowns after the hard work of Murray, but at the end of the day, for a RB2 you want the grinder who will get you upwards on 1,000 yards and nearly 10 touchdowns. A guy who can run and catch the ball consistently.
Of course, Murray will not be the player to lead your team in scoring or be one of the top 10 players in your league this season, but he could be the under the radar RB2 that damn near gets your team to the playoffs this season. The truth is, leagues are won on quick, smart waiver moves and scooping up sleepers in the later rounds of the draft. So, when it comes to the two Titans, take the one with the experience and the resume. Take the one you can trust to get the job done rather than roll the dice on a non-proven young talent who has only shown he can be successful on the coat tail of his mentor. For the 2017 season, DeMarco Murray is the Titan you want from Tennessee’s backfield.
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