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Late for Work: Derrick Henry Not Given Respect He Deserves in ESPN's Running Back Rankings

RB Derrick Henry
RB Derrick Henry

Derrick Henry Not Given Respect He Deserves in ESPN's Running Back Rankings

Derrick Henry's resume speaks for itself. The four-time Pro Bowl running back has been consistently outstanding for the better part of a decade and is on a Hall of Fame path.

That's what makes his placement in ESPN's top 10 running back rankings so surprising. Henry came in at No. 9 in the survey of league executives, coaches, and scouts.

For the second year in a row, Henry fell four spots in the annual rankings. His highest ranking in this year's survey was No. 3. Astonishingly, at least one panelist excluded Henry from their top 10.

ESPN's Jeremy Fowler noted that multiple people interviewed wondered about Henry's fit with the Ravens — an I-formation back in a shotgun-heavy offense.

"It's definitely going to be interesting," an NFC scout said. "They will probably go with a little more pistol, which is like being underneath center, and he can get downhill."

Running Backs Coach Willie Taggart admitted at minicamp last month that he initially was concerned about how Henry would fit in the offense, but his uncertainty evaporated once he saw Henry on the practice field.

"I questioned that, until he got here, and [I saw] the big man move his feet, and I'm like, 'Woah.' It's really impressive for a guy that size to move the way he does," Taggart said. "... I don't think we'll have any problem doing it. And, we'll also be under center. We do some things under center, as well. But Derrick is an athlete. He's a big athlete, and I don't think he'll have any problem with anything we ask him to do. If we want him to go out at receiver, I think Derrick would go out there and get that done, as well."

Henry's age (30) undoubtedly affected his ranking even though he has finished second in rushing yards in each of the past two seasons. Last season he led the league in yards after contact and hit 21.68 miles per hour on a long run in Week 18.

Henry's extraordinary production at an age when most running backs are in decline wasn't lost on one veteran NFL coach who took part in ESPN's survey.

"He's a warrior," the coach said. "Just keeps himself in such good physical conditioning with offseason workouts. I don't see him slowing down over the next two years. He's a volume back with great size, breaks tackles, has deceptive speed and no one's really catching him if he gets going. I don't think he's lost a step."

On a side note, The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec chose Henry as the Ravens' top non-quarterback MVP candidate for this season.

"Assuming Henry has a seamless transition into the Ravens offense, he should open up space for Lamar Jackson and create favorable matchups for the team's wide receivers and tight ends," Zrebiec wrote. "Like Roquan Smith on the defensive side, Henry is a force multiplier. If he becomes the piece that helps the Ravens get past Kansas City and to the Super Bowl, he'll go down as one of the better free-agent signings in team history."

The Baltimore Banner Begins Countdown of Top 20 Ravens for 2024

The Baltimore Banner's Jonas Shaffer is ranking the Ravens' top 20 players based on their projected impact this season.

Thus far, Shaffer has revealed Nos. 11-20. Here's a look at three compelling names on his list:

20. WR Rashod Bateman

"Not long ago, this looked like a crossroads season for Bateman. His third year in Baltimore had taken on all the contours of his frustrating Ravens career: injury questions, dormant stretches, a few moments of brilliance. Then, in April, the 2021 first-round pick signed a contract extension through the 2026 season, undercutting some of the make-or-break urgency around his 2024.

"The talent to launch a breakout year is still there; first-round pick Nate Wiggins called Bateman the most difficult wide receiver to cover this offseason, and tight end Mark Andrews has said he looks 'incredible.' Bateman's health, for now, is in a good place, too. His next step is crucial. Can he finally convert his route-running ability into a connection with Jackson? Last year, Jackson seldom looked for Bateman (32 catches for 367 yards). They'll need each other more than ever this season."

18.CB Nate Wiggins

"It's hard to bet against the Ravens' track record of first-round cornerbacks. Duane Starks (1998) had five interceptions as a rookie. Chris McAlister (1999) started 12 games. Jimmy Smith (2011) appeared in 12 despite an ankle injury. Marlon Humphrey (2017) played over half of the snaps for one of the NFL's best defenses.

"Wiggins, taken No. 30 overall, waited the longest of those Day 1 picks, but General Manager Eric DeCosta called him 'the best cover corner' in this year's draft and a potential 'true shutdown-type corner.' Standing in the Clemson product's way are size concerns and a crowded depth chart, both of which might be resolved before long. The Ravens have a development plan in place for the skinny Wiggins, who should find a role in the defense as a rookie, especially if injuries again befall the team's secondary."

12. OLB Odafe Oweh

"The good news: Oweh is primed for a breakout season. Despite missing four games with an ankle injury last year, Oweh finished 32nd in the NFL in pressures among edge rushers, according to PFF. His pressure rate, according to the NFL's Next Gen Stats, ranked ahead of those of the Minnesota Vikings' Danielle Hunter (now with the Houston Texans), the Detroit Lions' Aidan Hutchison and the Chicago Bears' Montez Sweat, all of whom had at least 11.5 sacks.

"The bad news: Although pressures are more predictive of sacks than sacks themselves, takedowns have been elusive throughout Oweh's career. The 2021 first-round pick had just five sacks in 2023, matching a career high, and his sack rate ranked 44th among qualifying edge rushers. Still, the physically gifted Oweh is in good hands with pass rush coach Chuck Smith. With a boost in confidence from the Ravens' offseason pickup of his fifth-year option, Oweh could easily double his sack numbers this year."

Pro Football Focus Names Offensive Prospect Who Should Be on Ravens' Radar

Pro Football Focus’ Trevor Sikkema named one offensive prospect in the 2025 draft for each team to watch this season. For the Ravens, it's Texas offensive tackle Kevin Banks Jr.

"The Ravens moved on from Morgan Moses this past offseason, leaving a vacancy at right tackle (perhaps to be filled by rookie Roger Rosengarten). Left tackle Ronnie Stanley is under contract for just one more season, will be 31 years old next offseason and has dealt with injuries over the past four seasons," Sikkema wrote. "Offensive tackle will likely be high on Baltimore's priority list for 2025. Kelvin Banks Jr. is still raw in his technique but is an incredible athlete for the position. He has all the tools to be a starting-caliber left tackle."

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