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Why Austin Ekeler deserves a bigger contract than Derrick Henry this offseason

The last thing any defensive back wants to see right now is Derrick Henry running right at them with a full head of steam. If the ‘body blows’ crowd were to elect a champion, Henry would be the clear-cut number one option — and for good reason. The momentum he generates with his combination of size and speed can deliver blows with the best of them, and his yards after contact numbers bear that out.

From Weeks 7 to 17 with Ryan Tannehill as the starting quarterback, Henry amassed 907 rushing yards after contact. That was more than any other player in the league had total rushing over that span. His performance against the New England Patriots this past weekend only strengthened his case in the eyes of many for a lucrative contract this offseason. Henry carried the ball 34 times for 182 yards, averaging over 4.0 yards per attempt after contact in the process.

It’s hard to dispute that Henry has been one of the most effective rushers in the league over the past two seasons. He ranks at or near the top of the position in PFF rushing grade, broken tackles and yards after contact. Despite that, he isn’t worth the contract that he will surely get, either from the Tennessee Titans or elsewhere. Henry won’t even be the most valuable running back to hit the free-agent market this offseason. That honor belongs to Austin Ekeler.

Ekeler just had one of the best receiving seasons we’ve ever seen from a running back

In recent weeks, the PFF Research & Development team has unveiled both PFF WAR (wins above replacement) and PFF WAA (wins above average), which evaluate how valuable a player is to their team relative to a replacement-level player or a league-average player. The most valuable running back set to hit the market this offseason isn’t Henry — the league’s leading rusher — as many would assume; it is Ekeler, largely because he was the top running back in the league in the facet of the game that matters most for the position: receiving.


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