Fantasy Football, Fantasy Sports

Derrick Henry or Christian McCaffrey: Who Should I Draft As RB1 Fantasy Football in 2023?

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Derrick Henry of the Tennessee Titans and Christian McCaffrey of the San Francisco 49ers have both proven to be elite fantasy assets when healthy, but injuries have hampered both over the past couple seasons. Let’s take a deep dive into their profiles to determine which RB has the edge entering the 2023 season.

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Derrick Henry vs Christian McCaffrey Player Information:

AttributeDerrick HenryChristian McCaffrey

Derrick Henry vs Christian McCaffrey 2022 Stats:

StatDerrick HenryChristian McCaffrey
Games Played (GP)1617
Rushing Attempts (ATT)349244
Rushing Yards (YDS)1,5381,139
Rushing Touchdowns (TD)138
Receptions (REC)3785
Receiving Yards (YDS)254741
Receiving Touchdowns (TD)15
Total Yards (TOT YDS)1,9301,880
Total Touchdowns (TOT TD)1313
Total Fumbles (FUM)6 (3 lost)1

Derrick Henry was an absolute workhorse for the Titans last season, leading all running backs with 349 rushing attempts. He rumbled for over 1,500 yards on the ground and found the end zone 13 times as a rusher.

While Henry got more involved as a pass catcher, posting 37 catches for 254 yards, he still lagged behind McCaffrey’s receiving production. Christian McCaffrey battled injuries but was highly efficient when on the field. He averaged 4.7 yards per carry en route to 1,139 rushing yards and caught 85 balls out of the backfield for 741 receiving yards. McCaffrey reached the end zone 13 times total, with 8 rushing and 5 receiving scores.

Derrick Henry vs Christian McCaffrey 2023 Projected Stats:

StatDerrick HenryChristian McCaffrey
Rushing Yards (YDS)1,368882
Rushing Touchdowns (TD)107
Receptions (REC)3269
Receiving Yards (YDS)285546
Receiving Touchdowns (TD)15
Projected Fantasy Points (PPR)257273

Looking ahead to 2023, we can expect Henry to continue dominating carries and the goal line work in Tennessee. He should still flirt with 1,300+ rushing yards and double-digit rushing TDs. For McCaffrey, if he stays healthy he should be one of the highest volume pass catching backs in the league under Kyle Shanahan. While Henry likely leads in rushing stats again, a healthy McCaffrey could easily pace all RBs in receptions, receiving yards, and PPR fantasy scoring. Both backs will warrant first round consideration in fantasy drafts.

Derrick Henry vs Christian McCaffrey Madden 24 Ratings

Overall Ratings (Winner: Christian McCaffrey):

AttributeDerrick HenryChristian McCaffrey
Overall (OVR)9496

Run CMC holds a super slight edge over King Henry in the overall ratings. It’s that fancy footwork and ankle-breaking agility that puts McCaffrey over the top. He’s so shifty he probably jukes defenders in his dreams! Meanwhile, Henry earns his crown by trucking defenders into oblivion. Different styles, both extremely effective. But those soft mitts give CMC the receiving upside that makes him juuuust a bit more valuable.

Physical Attributes (Winner: Christian McCaffrey):

AttributeDerrick HenryChristian McCaffrey
Speed (SPD)9191
Acceleration (ACC)8693
Strength (STR)8772
Agility (AGI)8496
Jumping (JMP)8890
Injury (INJ)9387
Stamina (STA)9893
Toughness (TOU)9793

This is where McCaffrey’s video game-like agility rating jumps off the page! He moves like a squirrel hyped up on hazelnut coffee. Combine that with acceleration that screams “See ya later alligator!” and CMC has the edge in physical traits. Henry can’t hang in the agility department, but hooo boy can he drag defenders like rag dolls with that monster strength rating. Pure power vs electricity in a bottle!

Running Attributes (Winner: Derrick Henry):

AttributeDerrick HenryChristian McCaffrey
Carrying (CAR)9298
Trucking (TRK)9065
Change of Direction (COD)7993
Ball Carrier Vision (BCV)9293
Stiff Arm (SFA)9980
Spin Move (SPM)7585
Juke Move (JKM)8693

All hail King Henry when it comes to smashing between the tackles! His massive carrying and trucking ratings means tiptoeing around is not in his vocabulary. Why juke when you can run straight through defenders like a bowling ball crashing into pins? McCaffrey relies more on creative wiggle to avoid tackles, whereas Henry IS the tackle. No question Henry takes the cake for pure running skills.

Catching and Receiving Attributes (Winner: Christian McCaffrey):

AttributeDerrick HenryChristian McCaffrey
Catching (CTH)6683
Spectacular Catch (SPC)5575
Catch in Traffic (CIT)4772
Short Route Running (SRR)5682
Medium Route Running (MRR)4974
Deep Route Running (DRR)4167

Do you want crisp routes that leave defenders twisted in knots? Then McCaffrey is your guy! His spectacular ratings for catching, spectacular catch (duh), and route running make him deadly as a receiver. Henry…let’s just say his cinderblock mitts don’t exactly stretch the defense. Big advantage CMC!

Blocking Attributes (Winner: Derrick Henry):

AttributeDerrick HenryChristian McCaffrey
Pass Block (PBK)6463

We’ve got ourselves a barnburner here folks! A neck and neck battle with Henry juuust edging out CMC in the blocking department. We know, contain your excitement. The reality is both backs are terrible blockers and it doesn’t really matter. These dudes get paid to juke and truck, not pick up blitzers! Slight bump to Henry but this category is a fantasy snoozefest.

Derrick Henry’s Profile

Past Production

Over the past four seasons, Derrick Henry has been arguably the most dominant running back in the NFL. He led the league in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns in both 2019 and 2020. In 2019, Henry rumbled for 1,540 yards and 16 touchdowns on the ground while adding 206 receiving yards. He followed that up with a monster 2020 season of 2,027 rushing yards and 17 rushing touchdowns, along with 114 receiving yards.

Henry was on pace for another legendary season in 2021 before a foot injury limited him to just 8 games. In those 8 games, however, Henry still managed 937 rushing yards, 10 touchdowns, and 154 receiving yards. Last season, even after missing nearly half the year, Henry totaled 1,538 rushing yards, 13 rushing touchdowns, and 254 receiving yards in 16 games.

Workload Outlook for 2023

Based on Henry’s past usage, there are no concerns over volume in Tennessee. When healthy, he is a lock for 300+ carries and goal line work. Even in today’s RBBC-heavy NFL, Henry is a true bellcow back. Over the past three seasons, Henry has averaged 327 carries and 35 receptions per 16 games.

With his punishing running style, there is always concern over Henry wearing down over the course of a season. He turns 29 in January and has logged over 1,200 touches in his career already. However, his limited usage early in his career and demanding offseason workout regimen helps offset some of that worry. He has yet to show any significant drop-off in production.

Supporting Cast

The Titans made a splash this offseason by signing DeAndre Hopkins. This gives Henry a true WR1 to help take pressure off the running game. Emerging WR Treylon Burks and reliable TE Chigoziem Okonkwo offer additional weapons in the passing attack. QB Ryan Tannehill is an average starter who Henry has meshed well with.

While not an elite unit, the Titans offensive line ranks around league average in most metrics. They run a zone blocking scheme that Henry has fit seamlessly into. The line staying healthy and Henry’s familiarity with the scheme provide optimism for consistent production. Overall, the Titans project to have a slightly above average offense that will provide Henry plenty of scoring chances.

Christian McCaffrey’s Profile

Past Production

When healthy, Christian McCaffrey has been the premier PPR running back in fantasy football. He finished as the RB1 overall in 2019 with 1,387 rushing yards, 116 receptions, 1,005 receiving yards, and 19 total touchdowns. In 2020, he played just 3 games but maintained his incredible pace by averaging 124 scrimmage yards and 1 TD per game.

Last season, McCaffrey split time between the Panthers and 49ers after another injury-marred season. Between the two teams, he had 1,139 rushing yards, 85 catches, and 13 touchdowns in 17 games. On a per game basis, those numbers remain RB1 caliber, but the injuries are undeniably a concern. Still, a healthy McCaffrey is as dangerous as any skill position player in the NFL.

Workload Outlook for 2023

In his last fully healthy season (2019), McCaffrey played 93% of Carolina’s offensive snaps and handled 403 touches. While it’s unlikely he approaches that workload again, he should flirt with 325+ touches if he suits up for 17 games. Elijah Mitchell and Tyrion Davis-Price will take some touches, but McCaffrey will dominate the backfield when healthy.

Kyle Shanahan’s offense has supported fantasy RB1s like Matt Breida and Raheem Mostert in the past. With McCaffrey’s superior talent, he could thrive in this scheme if his body holds up. He is equally dangerous as both a runner and receiver. The 49ers are likely to use him similarly to how the Panthers did during his peak seasons.

Supporting Cast

The 49ers have a loaded offense that should provide McCaffrey ample fantasy production opportunities. QB Brock Purdy offers more upside than Jimmy Garoppolo and his rushing ability gives McCaffrey more scoring chances near the goal line. WRs Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk are both legitimate threats that prevent teams from focusing solely on stopping McCaffrey.

TE George Kittle and FB Kyle Juszczyk are also excellent run blockers who enable the 49ers’ complex rushing attack. And San Francisco’s offensive line ranks among the Top 5 leagues in run blocking. Head coach Kyle Shanahan is one of the best play designers in the NFL and knows how to scheme touches for his star running back.

The Verdict: McCaffrey by a Slim Margin

While Henry is a safer bet for 300+ carries and more touchdown equity, Christian McCaffrey gets the nod for 2023 fantasy RB1 based on his immense upside in PPR leagues. When healthy, he is unquestionably the top fantasy back in football due to his impact in both the rushing and passing game. He’s averaged 108 receptions, 911 receiving yards, and 6 TD catches per 16 games since 2018.

Meanwhile, Henry has never eclipsed 206 receiving yards in a season. McCaffrey’s projected 80+ receptions gives him a significantly safer floor than Henry in any format that awards full PPR. McCaffrey also moves to an innovative 49ers offense that powers productive fantasy RBs. He averaged 26.5 PPG in his 3 healthy games last year. If McCaffrey plays 17 games, he is the favorite to finish 2023 as the overall RB1.

The risks with McCaffrey are apparent – he has missed 23 games over the past two seasons. Meanwhile, when healthy Derrick Henry is a near lock for 1300+ rushing yards and 10+ scores. Even if McCaffrey outscores Henry on a per game basis, Henry’s durability makes it likelier he finishes with more total fantasy points. But in fantasy drafts, managers have to take risks to win championships. You can find a serviceable RB2 later in your draft, but McCaffrey’s ceiling is unmatched.

Both RBs will come off the board in the top half of the 1st round in 2023 fantasy drafts. Managers sitting at the end of Round 1 or start of Round 2 should strongly consider whichever back falls to them. Ideally, the manager with the first overall pick takes McCaffrey and then pairs him with Henry at the turn. That combination provides the safest production floor from the RB position. But if you must choose one, bet on Christian McCaffrey’s upside and take the plunge.

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