‘Unicorn’ Henry Favored To Claim Third Straight Rushing Title

In 2020, Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry became just the eighth player in NFL history to surpass 2,000 yards rushing in a single season. Suffice it to say, “Tractorcito” led the league in rushing — for the second straight year — and has also led the NFL in rushing touchdowns the past two seasons.

It should come as no surprise, then, that the 247-pound workhorse is favored to win his third consecutive rushing title. But at +400 at PointsBet (he fetches similar odds at rival sportsbooks), he’s not as heavy a favorite as you might imagine, with Dalvin Cook (+600) and Nick Chubb (+750) also afforded a decent shot at the crown. Similarly, while Henry’s a +500 favorite to again lead the NFL in rushing touchdowns, Cook (+600), Chubb (+800), and Christian McCaffrey (+800) are right there with him.

As PointsBet Head of Trading Jay Croucher confirms, Henry’s odds are effectively a victim — or, for sports bettors in Tennessee and beyond, a beneficiary — of his ongoing dominance, as it’s rare for a tailback in this day and age to keep running the table like he has.

“There’s so much variance at the running back position and there’s so much that’s out of the running back’s control — whether he’ll be running the ball late in the game, the offensive line,” said Croucher. “Henry’s workload last year was just insane, and a running back’s ability to sustain that is questionable. Then there’s the risk of injury, the natural dangers of that position. It’s difficult to get much shorter than +400 in 2021.”

MVP odds discount ‘a bygone era’

PointsBet puts the over/under on Henry’s yardage at 1,500.5, which seems a little low considering his 2020 exploits and the fact that Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill just got placed on the team’s reserve/COVID-19 list and could miss 10 days, if not more. But should Tannehill go so far as to miss the regular season opener, Croucher doubts he’ll adjust Henry’s lines much.

“They’d likely be feeding him the ball more often, but with Tannehill out, it means the line will move against them and they’re less likely to be in situations where Henry is at his best, which is running the ball in the fourth quarter to protect a lead,” said Croucher. “You throw it all into a pot and you come up with a similar price.”

Only Chiefs QB Pat Mahomes (+700) is favored over Henry (+750) to win the league’s Offensive Player of the Year Award. But Tannehill actually has shorter odds (+2800) than Henry (+6000) to be named the NFL’s MVP. Think about that for a second: It’s not like Tannehill’s a two-way sensation whose defensive exploits give him the edge over his teammate. Rather, those MVP odds reflect how much more passing is valued over running in the modern NFL.

To that end, Croucher calls Henry “a unicorn,” adding, “The difference between an efficient passing attack and an efficient running attack is so extreme. Adrian Peterson, in his MVP year (2012, when the Vikings went 10-6 and lost to Green Bay in the wild card round), he played the position about as well as you can and that team didn’t make any noise. Henry is so unique, but I think the league is skewing more and more toward passing. Henry’s a throwback to a bygone era, but that era is bygone for a reason. Henry’s rushing yards per attempt are just going to be lower than a quarterback’s [passing] yards per attempt.”

Photo: Christopher Hanewinckel/USA Today