Week 17 championships are the worst. Not only do you have to contend with teams like the Steelers and Rams benching their starters for a meaningless regular season finale, but I’ve had to see countless fantasy players celebrate (or scorn) a championship in a league with more “traditional” rules. But sometimes, just sometimes, the fantasy gods smile down and give us a Week 17 blessing.
To Derrick Henry owners, that day is today. DeMarco Murray was improbably trying to play Sunday with a grade-three MCL sprain, but the Titans have shut him down Friday afternoon. That leaves Henry as the lone workhorse in a Titans-Jags affair with playoff implications.
The Titans stand at 8-7, right on the bubble of the AFC Playoffs. They most certainly need to win in front of the home crowd to make a case for the playoffs, and that should mean plenty of Henry. The Titans were fourth in rushing attempts last year, but that ranking has dipped to 18th this season. While that number is strong, and averages to around 27 rushing attempts per game, only 10 of them usually go to Henry. That makes the former Alabama product, who has averaged over 4.5 yards per carry for his NFL career, underutilized in this Titans offense.
The difference between Murray and Henry is obvious. Henry is averaging a full yard more on 36 fewer carries. If Henry can make a statement against the Jaguars, perhaps he can also make a case for lead back duties moving forward.
If you’re worried about Jacksonville’s defense, it should be worth noting that Derrick Henry is not. He had 92 yards on 14 carries against the Jags in the second week of the season, as the Titans cruised to an easy victory in Jacksonville. The Jags are also fresh off a road beating in the Bay where Carlos Hyde and Matt Breida combined for 128 yards and two scores. Jags head coach Doug Marrone has indicated that he will play his starters on Sunday, but Jacksonville cannot afford to lose talent on defense, and Marrone should be quick to yank his guys if things start to go south.
In Week 17 DFS tournaments, it’s hard not to see Henry as a must-own option. At $5,500 on DraftKings and only $300 more on FanDuel, Henry looks like a lock for most lineups. Week 17 is already setting us up for a ton of value in the DFS space with multiple teams ruling out starters.
For Henry owners with seasons already ended, this is still a great game for Henry to make his case as next year’s starter. Most drafted Henry this year with the small hope that he would eventually usurp Murray as the starter, and although it only happened in production and not in snaps or carries, Henry has clearly established himself as more productive when given the opportunity. If he can run through the Jaguars on Sunday, and then perhaps a strong playoff performance, his stock will skyrocket heading into 2018.