Tennessee Titans RB Derrick Henry is still the NFL’s gold standard

Derrick Henry (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Derrick Henry (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /

Derrick Henry is the best running back the NFL has seen since Adrian Peterson, and ESPN confirmed that the Tennessee Titans’ star is still the league’s gold standard at the position.

The Titans have been popular in ESPN’s offseason series about the best players at each position, and Henry is the third player from Tennessee to rank inside the top three. That is a great accomplishment for the team, but it might be underselling Henry’s accolade thought because he was voted as the top player at his position in the NFL, though you probably didn’t need a list to tell you that.

It is really telling that in a season where Henry wasn’t especially efficient and where he missed more than half of the games, the NFL coaches and scouts still had him at the top of the list. That speaks to just how dominant he is and how much respect he has earned.

Not only was Henry ranked first this season, but he was also ranked first in last year’s article, and the only other players to repeat at the top of their position ranking were Aaron Donald, Quenton Nelson, and Nashville native Jalen Ramsey.

Derrick Henry’s path to the Hall of Fame continues in 2022

Right now the only thing that can keep Derrick Henry out of the Hall of Fame is his own health. Currently, Derrick Henry is fourth in franchise history in career rushing yards behind Titans/Oilers greats Eddie George, Earl Campbell, and Chris Johnson.

Since he has 6,797 yards, a Pro Bowl season would probably push him past Chris Johnson (7,965) for third place. If 2022 turns out to be another historic season like his 2020 campaign, that would push him into second place ahead of Hall of Famer Earl Campbell (8,574).

The only player on that list that Henry won’t be able to pass this season is Eddie George who has the title for the most rushing yards by a Titans player at a whopping 10,009 yards.

The reason he hit that number is that he was able to stay healthy and run the ball 2,733 times, which is nearly twice as many attempts as Henry currently has under his belt (1,401), despite his heavy workload.

The reason why this matters for Henry’s Hall of Fame push despite George not being in the Hall is that Henry has the “wow” moments to go along with the consistent domination. There is no question that Derrick Henry has “higher highs” than George and his career is closer to Earl Campbell in terms of explosive highlights that stick in your mind.

We know that the Tennessee Titans are going to use him plenty this season, and they have added two of the best blockers at their positions in Robert Woods and Austin Hooper. Call me optimistic, but I think the offensive line will be much better this season as long as injuries don’t get in the way again.

My mini-rant on the offensive line improvement goes something like this.

Taylor Lewan clearly lacked a lot of strength in his lower body and was never close to 100% last season. Rodger Saffold was dealing with a neck issue all season and he was constantly being pulled out of games because it was causing him so many problems. Nate Davis had COVID twice and has talked about just how much that hurt his play and his conditioning last year, but that isn’t the case in 2022.

In 2022, Lewan should be fully recovered from his ACL injury, Saffold will be replaced by the winner of the mysterious left guard battle, Davis looks back to normal, and David Quessenberry is gone. All of those things suggest that the Titans OL is a group to buy low on this year.

With an improved offensive line and improved blocking from the tight ends and receivers, Henry just needs to stay healthy for two or three more seasons and he will have a very strong case for the Hall of Fame.