The Tennessee Titans release of running back DeMarco Murray on Thursday ended one era and served as the headlined for a new, much anticipated era. Murray's release now opens the door for Derrick Henry to take over as Tennessee's lead running back in 2018.
Henry, who the team drafted with the 45th overall selection in the 2016 NFL Draft, finally lands in the role he and fantasy owners always wanted. Even greater for fantasy owners will be the timing of it after the Titans cleared out the coaching staff and hew head coach Mike Vrabel brought in Matt LaFleur as the team's offensive coordinator.
We saw flashes of brilliance from Henry last season that teased fantasy owners of what he could do. The 24-year-old averaged 4.2 yards per carry and totaled 744 rushing yards with five rushing touchdowns. When Murray went down and opened the door for Henry to be the lead back in the playoffs for Tennessee, Henry once again showed his potential. In the team's wild card win over the Kansas City Chiefs, Henry rushed for 156 yards and added 35 receiving yards to his stat line. However, he struggled the next week along with the rest of his teammates in a 35-14 loss to the New England Patriots and finished with just 28 rushing yards on 12 carries.
He'll play behind a solid offensive line in Tennessee and in an offense that should show further improvements with the change in play calling and further surrounding talent for quarterback Marcus Mariota. The big question for Henry is his role on third downs as his pass blocking drew poor reviews and he totaled just 24 receptions in two NFL seasons. It could push Tennessee to spend one of its picks on a running back from the 2018 class to complement Henry's skill set.
Henry should see 260-plus carries in 2018 on a fun offense and thus draw plenty of attention in fantasy football. While he doesn't draw first-round consideration given the current stable of talent at running back and the incoming arrival of Saquon Barkley to the NFL, Henry should be a top-25 pick in fantasy drafts.