Running Backs with LaFleur - a take on Derrick Henry

This post piggy-backs off of the most recent episode, “The Truth about Fantasy RBs in 2018, Part 2.”

LaFleur before becoming offensive coordinator for the Titans, was the offensive coordinator for the LA Rams when Gurley had his resurgence year. Gurley was given the bulk of the snaps and carries while LaFleur was there. Pro Football Reference lists Todd Gurley as having participated in 76% of offensive snaps. I wanted to give this background information before I dove into this next part, which is where I go against the grain and say, I don’t think Henry’s season is his own fault and it may be early to write him off. Allow me to provide this opinion, and let me know your thoughts!

LaFleur may not be a Norv Turner when it comes to having a workhorse RB, but based on data from this season and on Gurley’s utilization in 2017, he seems to want to give 70% of the snaps to one RB. Over the first seven games of the Titan’s season, during which they got 3 wins and 4 loses, Dion Lewis received on average 63% of the snaps. Over those first seven games Lewis average 3.1yards/carry, granted Henry’s wasn’t that different early on. Lewis only saw a max of 20 rushing attempts in a game all season, whether that’s a knock on his durability in comparison to Henry I can’t say, but we all know Henry can handle 30+ carries. During their late season win streak through weeks 13-16, Henry started seeing more snaps, and Lewis started seeing less. When I say that I mean in week 13 they were 40/60 rather than 30/70, but in week 14 Henry did monstrous things which the Titans rewarded with a monstrous workload (70% of the snaps, 33 attempts) with which Henry again did monstrous things! Over the last seven weeks of the season Henry average 5.97yards/carry, obviously helped by the game against the Jags. Lewis, on the other hand, averaged less than 3yards/carry. Even after their BYE Week you can see a difference in yards/carry (Lewis less than 3, Henry greater than 5). These stats I’ve acquired from Pro-Football Reference.

In discussions Henry has always been talked about as “needing a head of steam” which I’ve translated to “their first 10 rush attempts aren’t great but they’re figuring out the opponents D-line, so don’t sleep on them just yet.” Other RBs that I would group into this category include Jordan Howard and Jay Ajayi. I was a disbeliever in Howard for so long, and of course this year when I draft him I get burned, but I don’t think he’s without talent, which is how I regard Ajayi. I’ll never forget when Jay Ajayi went on a three week rampage for the Dolphins in 2016 where he totaled 529 yards on the ground, the same way I won’t forget watching Henry’s big games. There’s something about the bruiser style RBs and patience as an OC. If you trust them and feed them they seem to get it going, but if you limit their reps they won’t establish their rhythm and won’t do what we’ve seen them do! I can’t believe that Henry, as a Heisman Trophy winner, doesn’t still have a vast amount of potential.

With the in-house hire/promotion of Arthur Smith as the new OC for the Titans, I think Henry is an intriguing and probably cheap dynasty acquisition. Dion is 28yrs old while Henry is 25. Please share your thoughts! Cheers!

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I think this is the equivalent of a ‘down hill runner’. My interpretation of those phrases is that the player needs holes created in the center of the field. Unlike a player like Bell who is shifty and can create their own holes. As opposed to purely receiving a large workload.

I’d be interested to see a statistical analysis of the O-line throughout the season.

BTW… i really enjoyed your post. Thoughtful, data driven and obvious research. :raised_hands:

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I really like that you said “down hill runner” because I agree completely. Before Henry’s late season dominance, I was trying to make sense of why he was struggling. From watching film and talking with a buddy of mine we came up with a theory, and I’ll have to look more into O-line statistics (Titans ranked 9th at the end of the season, going into the season they were projected 5th) and look more into the Titans rush play setup to confirm this, but that theory was: The Titans seemed to be set up for a more compact guy like Lewis who gets to top speed sooner than the giant that is Henry. Acceleration or how quickly RBs reach top speed is very important from just from a physics standpoint. Force=Mass*Acceleration. Our idea was that Henry needed maybe one or two more strides to hit an acceleration that would equate to a force far too great for any arm tackle to bring down, and given a semi clear hole he would undoubtedly break into the secondary where he’s simply too huge for one corner or safety to bring down easily.

Thank you for the compliment! If there’s another topic you’d be interested in reading about that you haven’t seen covered yet, let me know!

I think I would be fine with Henry so long as I had a top RB1 like Gurley, Zeke or Saquon.

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A follow on question from this thread might be who will be the 70% snap RB for the Packers next year it Matt LaFleur sticks to his 70/30 split.
Aaron Jones or Jamaal Williams

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This may be bold of me, but allow me to paint another picture with my verbage…

I think there’s a chance that LaFleur only went to the Packer’s because of the players already there. This is all based on the assumption that Aaron Jones returns healthy. There were several head coaching jobs opening up and anyone who even once breathed the same air as McVay has gotten an interview for one. Granted the Packers organization is a nice one to become a part of and Aaron Rodgers is obviously one of the players that I think helped LaFleur make his decision, AND the Packers weren’t exactly quiet about wanting to interview LaFleur… I think LaFleur would only want to be a HC in a place where he could build as potent of an offense as the Rams which was his first OC gig. For that he would need at least one elite player at each position on offense. Aaron Jones flashed when McCarthy stopped being ridiculous and let the talented play maker go make plays. I would say Aaron Jones, again returning healthy, is poised to be a top 10 RB next year.

Maybe with the late season injury and the lul right now with it being the offseason, just maybe, he could be acquired in dynasty leagues on the cheap but the risk I see for that is his off the field stuff. He had that one issue that landed him a suspension, he’s going to be under a microscope, maybe if you’re a new head coach you want to have your own guy that you trust, but I think LaFleur knows the value of talent AND good coaching.

If it’s a redraft league, I wouldn’t take him until my 3rd RB pick comes around which is probably after my RB1/RB2 AND WR1/WR2 depending on who is there. I think Lewis will get drafted in front of him in most redraft leagues barring any massive changes during the offseason. In Dynasty leagues I would totally be trying to get him on the cheap. I’d be selling an AP or Marshawn and seeing if that got any attention. I’d probably offer up Tevin Coleman even but I’m bitter about his performance this year. Henry’s age and durability I think suggests an uptick in his value over the next five years and whether that’s on the Titans or not I cannot say. Anyway… yeah! those are my feelings!

You will never get Henry in a dynasty league for AP or Marshawn. Those guys hold little to no value in a dynasty format, especially not even knowing if they’re playing next year. While Henry is a big crap shoot at this time, he’s still young and has major upside as we saw at the end of the season.

But I do agree that I will also be targeting Henry in dynasty for as cheap as possible.


Fair I’m not very experienced with Dynasty leagues and I assumed owners would be bitter and antsy and they’d want to move him. You’re totally right Marshawn and AP are too old to get Henry. Could a Crowell turn someone’s head? Maybe… doubtful but maybe! Upon further consideration you’d probably have to give up a Kenyan Drake or more… Thanks for sharing your opinion! I agree that what I initially said wouldn’t cut it trade wise.

Henry just got traded in my dynasty league for McKinnon 1:1…just to give some perspective of value

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Wow! Okay no real value there… I’d almost rather have McKinnon

I wrote a little bit about the Titans offense in a Corey Davis post I saw a few days ago. I’ll share my 2 cents. Mariota’s injury played a role in the ineffectiveness of the offense and early Dion was the “lead back”, but was ineffective, for whatever reason Henry almost lost his job to Dion because he was running “soft”. Eddie George came out and mentored Henry and he began to finish runs and looks like a totally different player now. Henry is a downhill runner but he is more of a Homerun back then a power back (although his stiff arm is nasty) his best runs are usually on tosses to the left behind lewan and a pulling Kelly (when he played guard) or Kline). He just looks a lot more confident and identifying the holes given to him. PFF has a lot of stats that support him grading out well in missed and broken tackles. To your point about Leflaur, I agree his gamelans were either very strong or questionable, but with AR that will be totally different. Smith has been with the Titans since Mariota so I’m hopeful the offense finally takes the next step. I also think the OL issues will be addressed in the offseason-CJ

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You’re the kind of football junkie I want to talk to regularly. Okay so I have comments and questions, if you want to read, go right ahead! if not no worries as i’m enjoying the thread continuing to get attention!

Lewan is a beast and Kelly is a beast. I’ve actually got a lot of respect for the Titans O-line especially considering that they could improve a bit! I had no idea that Eddie George visited Henry! That’s a wicked cool factoid and if you know which week(s) Eddie visited I’d love to go back and look at film and see what difference those talks made! I’m personally not high on Mariota at all but the closest I’ve scrutinized him is this year so I have to admit a bias there. He just always seemed like a lesser Vick to me where both were dangerous on the run, but Vick appeared more talented in the passing game aside from his stint with the Steelers. It’s totally fair to say that Mariota’s injury impacted the offenses effectiveness! I wonder if that could actually be spun in a positive way for Henry? That’s assuming he is the primary ball carrier in that backfield this upcoming season.

I’m also curious, especially because you seem to know a fair amount about the Titans, how highly would you rank Henry, right now? For the sake of discussion let’s assume that he is declared the primary ball carrier before the start of pre-season, and that Mariota is healthy and the entire O-line is too! If I posed that question to myself, I’m embarrassed to admit that I see the potential for Henry to be a top 12 RB in standard and HPPR leagues. If I was in a dynasty league I would try and move a Jordan Howard + another, or Jay Ajayi + another, or Kenyan Drake + another for Henry. I’m not confident any of those names alone would be enough, hence the (+).

How much do dynasty league owners value Henry? In a redraft league, who would you rather have for the entire season amongst these players; Henry, Guice, D. Cook, T. Cohen or L. McCoy?

Here is some stuff you can read it was after the chargers game (this is All 22 of the giants game because we already know what he did vs the jags)

Mariota might be one of the fastest QB’s in the league but maybe more a poor mans Russell Wilson (not as accurate deep, although he really improved, can run, and is clutch). His best game was against the packers in 2016, watch that one. His injury lead to teams stacking the box, but they were used to that anyway. Assuming everyone is healthy , I think top 12 is a good place to spot him if everything clicks he could go a little higher, if not he’s a solid RB2. This is Mariota’s last year before payday so they need to see if he’s the guy which should lead to some draft capital being spent on offense. Conklin should be back healthy too.

I can’t speak for other owners but workhorse RB’s are hard to find. I would think the question is do you think Henry is “the guy” and can he keep it up. I’d lean towards yes, but his stats during the playoffs were ridiculous. He’s also running for a contract.

I’d rank them in redraft Cook, Henry, Guice, Cohen McCoy. Injuries just killed Cook this year, and with Guice you don’t know what your getting, Shady usually injured so I stay away. I like Cohen, but I would still think they are in a timeshare and Mitch should progress in year w/ Naggy.

1 Like The reason I still believe in Mariota lol.

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