ESPN recently surveyed more than 50 league executives, coaches, scouts and players to help them stack the top 10 players at 11 different positions, from edge rusher to interior offensive lineman. They just revealed their running back rankings, with Tennessee Titans superstar Derrick Henry clocking in as the best ball-carrier in the NFL.
No. 1 | Derrick Henry | RB | Tennessee Titans | Highest Ranking: 1 | Lowest Ranking: 6
Henry and Jonathan Taylor tied for the most first-place votes this year, but Henry won out on composite scoring. He was pacing for a 1,900-plus-yard season in 2021 before a foot injury cost him nine regular-season games.
“I’d still give him one more year at the top,” an NFL coordinator said. “He’s the constant for that offense no matter who’s around him. I still trust him to make it happen above anyone else. You can give him the ball 30 times and he won’t disappoint.”
Over the past four years, Henry has averaged more than one rushing touchdown per game (55 scores in 51 games). His 10 touchdowns tied for sixth last season, despite playing less than half the year. And despite averaging 4.3 yards per carry in 2021 — his lowest since 2017 — the totals dipped because of a sluggish last two games before the foot injury. Through the first six games, his 783 yards on 162 carries produced a 4.8-yard average.
“I go Henry because everyone knows he is running the ball and their offensive line has been injured and it largely doesn’t matter,” an NFC exec said.
The process was rather straightforward. Voters gave ESPN their best 10 players at a position, which in turn was compiled into results and ranked candidates based on number of top-10 votes, composite average, hundreds of interviews, research and film-study help from ESPN NFL analyst Matt Bowen.
Henry rushed for 937 yards and 10 touchdowns last season in eight regular-season appearances. A regular-season-ending foot injury robbed Henry of an opportunity to become the first running back in NFL history to rush for 2,000-plus yards in back-to-back campaigns.
The King still runs the show.