Derrick Henry is a Titan in virtually every respect.
He is a titan of a running back, a big-bodied bruiser who stands taller than many of his peers. He is a titan in performance, this being his third straight year leading the league in rushing and third straight in the top five at his position in fantasy.
And, of course, he literally is a Tennessee Titan.
But the fantasy gods have robbed us of this titan. It was announced Monday that Henry will have surgery on an injured foot. Coach Mike Vrabel stopped short of ruling him out for the season, but fantasy managers shouldn’t hold out hope.
If you have an IR spot, put him there. But if your roster is stacked and you would have to cut a productive player to keep Henry, go ahead and drop him.
The Madman is willing to gamble that even if he can return, he won’t be back in time to help our fantasy teams. Normal recovery time reportedly is six to 10 weeks.
Six weeks, the best case, would put Week 15 on the radar for a potential return. As we’ve mentioned before, we don’t like starting players in their first game back after long absences. In Week 16, the Titans have a Thursday game against the 49ers. We have a hard time envisioning a realistic scenario in which he plays both those games, even in the best circumstances.
So that would push our first targeted fantasy use in Week 17, championship week in most leagues. If you have advanced to your title game without him, would you really plug him in with everything on the line?
And remember, this is the best-case scenario. Much more likely, Henry isn’t ready to return until the NFL playoffs. I mean, he is a running back, having foot surgery. Those two things don’t mix well.
So what do you do to make up for his production on your fantasy team? First, understand you don’t replace the production of the top player at a position, you simply try to minimize the damage.
The team signed Adrian Peterson in the wake of the injury. But don’t expect the world from him. Last season was his lowest-ever career average per carry (3.9) — in a season in which he got at least 150 carries. Expect Arizona James Conner-type of production. We would prefer to grab Seattle’s Alex Collins.
Henry’s injury will create other ripples. Jeremy McNichols’ use likely gets an uptick — this is especially significant in PPR scoring formats, since he plays a larger role in the passing game than the ground attack.
Also expect more reliance by Tennessee on the pass in general. So Ryan Tannehill gets a boost, and our confidence in A.J. Brown is solidified. We’re still petrified of Julio Jones due to sketchy availability, but maybe now not quite as petrified.
Henry’s injury leaves a gaping hole on your fantasy roster. You’re not going to be able to fill the whole hole, so just fill as much as you can.
Look at that
Michael Carter RB, Jets
Rookie had his big breakout in Week 8 — the leader among all RBs heading into Monday with 32.2 PPR points. In two games with Mike White as the primary QB, Carter has 17 catches — he had nine combined the first five games.
Rex Burkhead RB, Texans
Took over the role Sunday we have been expecting for Phillip Lindsay. Burkhead’s snap percentage jumped from the single digits to 49 percent in Week 8. Could do worse for an end-of-bench RB.
James Robinson RB, Jaguars
Put a scare into fantasy managers, leaving Sunday with a heel injury. But avoided major injury and is “day-to-day.” No need to rush and grab Carlos Hyde.
Dan Arnold TE, Jaguars
He got 10 targets (8-for-68) in Sunday’s loss, his highest of the season — which started in Carolina. No TDs yet, but with that kind of target volume, they will come.
Mike White QB, Jets
What a great story: huge game and incredible rally in his first career start. But don’t expect this every week. Consider it an anomaly for now.
Jimmy Garoppolo QB, 49ers
Don’t be fooled by large fantasy result — 27.78 points. He had two rushing TDs to boost his otherwise humdrum fantasy score. That’s 40 percent of his career total (five). Leave him on waivers.
Kenneth Gainwell RB, Eagles
Was expected to get some additional use with Miles Sanders out. Instead, he split carries virtually evenly with Boston Scott, Jordan Howard. But it was Scott and Howard who got the TDs — two each — and Gainwell was the least effective of the lot.
DeVante Parker WR, Dolphins
He is hit-and-miss when he plays. Was a moderate hit Sunday (8-for-85, 16.5 PPR points). But it is also hit-or-miss if he plays. Don’t take the bait.