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NFL player prop of the day: Derrick Henry has some huge numbers to hit

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At some point, Derrick Henry has to slow down. 

Maybe. 

Henry is different than the rest of NFL backs. In an era of committees, he rarely comes off the field. With teams maximizing running backs through getting them receptions, Henry very rarely catches the ball. Most teams worry about running back workloads, and the Tennessee Titans just keep giving Henry more to handle. NFL teams are mostly shying away from the bigger backs coming out of college, and Henry is 247 pounds. 

Henry is also miles ahead of other backs in rushing production. He had 2,027 rushing yards last season, 470 ahead of second-place Dalvin Cook and an astonishing 858 yards ahead of third-place Jonathan Taylor. 

Henry shouldn't be able to keep up this pace of carries or yards. Then again, he's different than everyone else. 

Derrick Henry has huge projections

BetMGM's player props, unsurprisingly, have Henry far ahead of the field. 

Henry's rushing yardage total prop at BetMGM is 1,525.5. Cook is second at 1,375.5. Henry's rushing touchdowns prop at BetMGM is 13.5, also tops in the league. 

If we just went off Henry's last two seasons, the overs are easy plays. If we adjust the 2021 totals to what they'd be for a 16-game season (remember, multiply by .941 to convert totals back to a 16-game projection), it goes to 1,435.5 and 12.7. The past two seasons, when the NFL was playing 16 games, Henry has rushed for 1,540 and 2,027 yards, and had 16 and 17 rushing touchdowns. He'd far surpass the 17-game projected totals at that pace. 

But, as you'll hear in this space, more can go wrong with player props than can go right. 

Henry is built like a tank, and NFL defenses are generally smaller to deal with more receivers being on the field in the modern game, so maybe normal rules of workloads don't apply to him. But Henry has 681 carries the past two seasons, and then add 101 more playoff carries. That type of workload has been unsustainable for practically everyone else in history. The Titans have shown no desire to cut back Henry's workload. 

"Nobody prepares for the rigors of the season more than Derrick," Titans coach Mike Vrabel said this offseason. "I’m not going to say that Derrick is the hardest-working player in football; I wouldn’t do that to the players around this league. But I can’t imagine that any of them work harder than he does, and he understands that, and the toll that he is going to take." 

That is good news for Henry over bettors, but there's an obvious risk. 

Derrick Henry is the NFL's best pure runner. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
Derrick Henry is the NFL's best pure runner. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

Henry's workload is hard to maintain

At some point Henry is going to feel the effects of all those carries. A look at how the other members of the 2,000-yard club did the season after hitting 2K (h/t to Titans Wire) is telling: 

O.J. Simpson, 2,003 to 1,125 (878 fewer yards) 

Eric Dickerson, 2,105 to 1,234 (871)

Barry Sanders, 2,053 to 1,491 (562)

Terrell Davis, 2,008 to 211 (1,797)

Jamal Lewis, 2,066 to 1,006 (1,060)

Chris Johnson, 2,006 to 1,364 (642)

Adrian Peterson, 2,097 to 1,266 (831)

If we remove Davis, who tore his ACL early in his follow-up season, that's an average drop of 807.3 yards. The smallest drop is 562 yards. And that list includes some of the greatest backs in history. 

Even if Henry matches Sanders for the smallest drop of any 2,000-yard rusher, he'd end up at 1,465 yards, well below the under. Football Outsiders talked about the "curse of 370," with running backs who reach 370 carries generally declining afterward. Henry had 378 regular-season carries last season. In 2019 he had 386 counting playoffs. 

Nobody wants to bet against Henry. He's one of the most entertaining players in the NFL. He has been a phenomenal player since the Titans finally (finally, finally) figured out how to properly use him. But a normal regression puts the under in play. An injury would probably ensure any under bets. 

Taking the under for Henry's rushing yards and rushing touchdowns is the right play. Hopefully we don't catch a Henry stiff-arm for fading him this season. 

Previous BetMGM player prop breakdowns

Dak Prescott 4,775.5 passing yards

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