Derrick Henry is still the king of fantasy football

Cole Seifer

The 2022 National Football League (NFL) Draft has come and gone, meaning the start of the new NFL season is on its way, beginning on Sept. 7. A tradition for many, the kickoff of a fresh NFL season signifies the beginning of an intense and competitive season of fantasy football. Yet, with so many skilled players currently dominating the league, it can be hard to decide who to draft first. Usually, when picking players in fantasy football, the first round is almost exclusive to running backs and one or two wide receivers. Those who have the coveted first overall pick might be inclined to draft players such as Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor or Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp, both of whom were the best players at their position and some of the best players overall last year. While these two players are viable options, there is doubt regarding the impact they will have this upcoming season. Come draft night, there is only one player that should be first off the board: Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry.


Jonathan Taylor:

There is no denying that Jonathan Taylor is a great football player. While he has only been in the league for two years, he has already made a name for himself as one of the top running backs in the NFL. He finished the year with just over 1,800 rushing yards (league leader), rushed for 18 touchdowns (league leader) and averaged 106.5 rushing yards per game (league leader). Taylor also averaged 20 fantasy points per game, topping all running backs. 

While these numbers are spectacular, the offseason trades and signings from the Colts may have a negative impact on Taylor’s performance. During this offseason, the Colts traded away quarterback Carson Wentz and later traded for veteran quarterback Matt Ryan. Ryan has always run a more pass-heavy offense, utilizing star wide receiver Julio Jones during his time on the Atlanta Falcons. Although the Colts lack a solid wide receiver core, Michael Pittman Jr. is a solid throwing option. Matt Ryan’s knowledge of football and ability to run a successful passing offense could allow for the other Colts wide receivers to play better than they did with Wentz. Taylor may be handed the ball less due to the more pass-oriented offense, impacting his playing ability. It is also common in the NFL for players to struggle to fully re-create their numbers from the prior year. Leading the league in the three main rushing categories is hard enough as it is, but doing it two years in a row is almost unheard of. While Taylor will still be a great first-round option, I can’t justify him being first overall.


Cooper Kupp:

What more is there to say that has not already been said about Cooper Kupp? During the 2021-2022 NFL season, Kupp won the Offensive Player of the Year award and the Super Bowl Most Valuable Player award. Kupp had one of if not the greatest seasons a wide receiver has ever had in the history of the NFL. At the end of the regular season, Kupp led the league in receptions (145), receiving yards (1947) and receiving touchdowns (16). Not only did Kupp win the triple crown (lead receptions, receiving touchdowns and receiving yards), but he also averaged over 25 fantasy points per game.

However, Kupp may not always be the primary target this season. During the offseason the Rams added Pro Bowl wide receiver Allen Robinson. Averaging around 64 receiving yards per game across his career, Robinson takes over 800 receiving yards per season. Before this 2021-2022 season, Kupp’s numbers were not anywhere near that. Kupp had only played one season where he had over 1,000 receiving yards before his record-breaking year. Similar to Jonathan Taylor, it will be tough for Kupp to follow up this season, and there is a high possibility that his numbers will regress from his breakout season.


Illustration by Cole Seifer

Derrick Henry:

Unlike the previous two players mentioned, Derrick Henry has consistently proven that he is a top player in the NFL. With his speed and power on the ground, Henry has destroyed run defenses for the past four years. In his six seasons in the NFL, Henry has rushed for almost 7,000 yards and 65 touchdowns. He also led the NFL in rushing yards, rushing touchdowns and rushing yards per game in both the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 seasons. Averaging over 1,100 rushing yards per season and over 10 rushing touchdowns per season, Henry has been one of the biggest threats on the ground since he entered the league. 

Due to a foot injury, Henry was off the field for most of the second half of the 2021-2022 season. Before his injury, he was on track to once again lead the league in most rushing categories. After being placed on injury reserve, he was still a top rusher in the NFL, even after not playing a single snap for multiple weeks. With the loss of star wide receivers A.J. Brown and Julio Jones and the tension between long-time quarterback Ryan Tannehill and rookie quarterback Malik Willis over Tannehill’s role in mentoring Willis, it is expected that Henry will carry a lot more weight this season. 

Henry has proven time and time again why he is the best running back in the league. Assuming he is healthy, he will have another chance to prove his dominance. Henry’s potential this season outweighs many other top players, making him the best choice to be taken at the number one slot.