NFL News & Analysis

Fantasy Football Waiver Wire: Veteran RB Adrian Peterson emerges as Derrick Henry replacement

Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Lions running back Adrian Peterson (28) raises his arms after a play during the first quarter against the Houston Texans at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

According to a report by ESPN's Adam Schefter, Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry suffered what could be a season-ending foot injury in Sunday’s win over the Indianapolis Colts.

The news will send shockwaves through the fantasy football landscape, as Henry wasn't just the league leader in fantasy points scored at the position, but he was also the top-ranked back for the rest of the season.

Longtime NFL running back Adrian Peterson was added to the team’s practice squad Monday with the intention of him getting added to the active roster once he’s ready.

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What the Titans had

Jeremy McNichols is currently the only true running back on the Titans roster, but he has traditionally served as a receiving back. He’s been an average runner over his career, never handling more than 11 carries in a game. He will likely play an expanded role, playing on a higher percentage of third-down and second-and-long snaps. He’s worth a waiver wire addition because of this increased workload, but it’s not worth spending a lot on him since he probably won’t see the majority of carries.

Darrynton Evans was expected to be the primary rushing backup this season, but a left knee injury has pushed him to season-ending injured reserve. Undrafted rookie Mekhi Sargent and Dontrell Hilliard are both on the practice squad. Hilliard was used as a receiving back in Cleveland at times before Kareem Hunt arrived. Sargent would be the in-house leader to take over more of the rushing role.

McNichols is the most likely to play a large role in the offense next week, but his fantasy ceiling is limited. Sargent has the highest upside as a rusher and could be the Titans' lead rusher this upcoming week, but he is unlikely to have long-term value unless he impresses against a strong Rams defense.

Tennessee Titans running backs in 2021
Metric Derrick Henry Jeremy McNichols Mekhi Sargent Darrynton Evans
Snaps played 411 145 2 6
Rush attempts 219 7 2 2
Yards 937 38 4 7
Yards after contact 728 25 1 6
Yards after contact per attempt 3.3 3.6 0.5 3
Missed tackles forced 33 1 0 0
PFF rushing grade 73.1 70.0 64.3 55.0

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Who the Titans could add

Adrian Peterson was added to the team's practice squad and will at some point make it to the active roster. The all-time Vikings great is not the player he once was, but he would have RB2 value in Tennessee simply because of volume and form a fine duo with McNichols.

Peterson's PFF rushing grade was solid in Washington, but he was a replacement-level player in Detroit last season with a 59.6 overall PFF grade.

Season Rushing grade Attempts Yards Yards after Contact Missed tackles forced Yards after contact/Att.
2020 60.8 155 608 396 19 2.55
2019 69.7 211 898 634 37 3.00
2018 75.4 251 1042 754 45 3.00
2017 60.3 156 529 365 24 2.34
2016 47.1 37 72 57 3 1.54
2015 69.2 327 1485 767 50 2.35

If the future Hall of Famer is the only new addition to the team, then he will likely carry a lot of fantasy value. There is also a chance Tennessee makes additional moves.

The trade deadline is Tuesday, Nov. 2 at 4 p.m. ET, so there is a short window for the Titans to add someone who could start over Peterson.

Any player the Titans trade for will become a must-add player in fantasy football who will likely see double-digit carries each game. We have covered the possible trade targets for Tennessee here.

Impact on the rest of the team

No matter who the Titans add at running back, the change will impact the rest of the offense. Having Henry on the field meant they faced more eight-man boxes than most teams, allowing the passing game to take advantage. A.J. Brown has 561 receiving yards against eight-man boxes over the last two seasons — more than any other player. Brown averages 4.28 yards per route run against eight men in the box compared to 2.18 against seven or fewer in the box.

However, what they will lose in efficiency, they might gain in volume. The Titans have been the most run-heavy team over the last two seasons, which makes sense with Henry in the backfield but doesn't with anyone else. If they go more at a league-average rate, that should add around seven passes per game.

There is now a wide range of outcomes for this offense. They could continue to lean on the run and need to punt a lot without Henry in the backfield, or they could embrace the passing game and allow Brown and Julio Jones to live up to the hype, ultimately helping their fantasy value.

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The final verdict

The best thing you can do is wait until the last minute to make your waiver claims. We should have more answers as to what the backfield could look like once the NFL trade deadline comes around, which will still leave time to head to the waiver wire.

Peterson is the best player to add, assuming they don’t also make a trade. He is worth a significant amount of FAB. McNichols is a cheaper option for deeper PPR leagues as his role should increase. Sargent is worth a gamble for fantasy managers looking for a running back this week in case Peterson isn’t ready.

As for Ryan Tannehill, Brown and Jones, their futures are less certain than before. This could be what they needed to be league winners but could also doom the offense and their fantasy production.


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