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Peter King: Titans RB Derrick Henry is Running Himself Straight Toward Hall of Fame


TAMPA, Fla. – Derrick Henry has led the NFL in rushing in back-to-back seasons, racking up yards a historic pace.

Henry's run of 200-yard games has also been one for the record books. His 2,027-yard season in 2020 put him in an elite category.

If the Titans running back keeps it up, he'll run himself right into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Hall of Fame voter Peter King, in fact, believes Henry's well on his way.

"If you look at running backs who have done what he has done over a two-year period, how many of them have done what Derrick has done and not made the Hall of Fame? I'd say the answer is zero, if not close to zero," King, a veteran sportswriter with NBC Sports/Pro Football Talk, said leading up to Super Bowl LV. "This may sound a little flip, but he is really going to have to fall off to not make the Hall of Fame.

"When you watch Derrick Henry, I don't know if you can find a guy who has been more dominant over a short era, and I think that will hold him in good stead when his career has ended. And he's shown no signs of slowing down."

Henry became just the eighth player in league annals to rush for at least 2,000 yards in a season in 2020.

His 2,027 rushing yards gave him the fifth-highest total in NFL history behind Eric Dickerson's 2,105 (1984), Adrian Peterson's 2,097 (2012), Jamal Lewis' 2,066 (2003) and Barry Sanders' 2,053 (1997). Henry broke Chris Johnson's franchise mark of 2,006 rushing yards in 2009.

Henry also became the first player since LaDainian Tomlinson (2006-07) to lead the NFL in rushing yards in consecutive seasons.

In five NFL seasons, Henry already has 5,860 rushing yards with 55 touchdowns and a 5.0-yard average per carry. Henry had 10 games with at least 100 rushing yards in 2020, and he became the first player in NFL history to rush for 175 yards and two touchdowns four times in a season.

In studying Henry, King measured the top five running backs in rushing in NFL history with their best three years and compared them to Henry's last three years, and he said Henry's run "compares favorably."

Henry ran for 1,059 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2018 before leading the NFL with 1,540 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2019.

"You don't know what the future holds, but even if he is just pretty 'normal' over the next four to six years I would think he'd have a very good chance to be in the Hall of Fame," King said of Henry. "People say (Kansas City's) Patrick Mahomes is already one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history. Well, no he isn't. He's 25 years old and has had three unbelievable years. But you can't have three unbelievable years and be one of the greatest quarterbacks ever. You need to have 10 unbelievable years as a quarterback to start entering that territory.

"What Derrick has done of late, and I spent a bunch of time looking stuff up. … Over the last 17 games, he has as many 200-yard games (4) as Jim Brown and Barry Sanders had in their careers. His last 13 months, it has to be in the discussion in the best year, 13 months any running back has ever had. Ever. … If you have watched the game since Christmas of 2019, Derrick Henry has had one of the most phenomenal runs for a running back ever. I am bullish for his chances (of making the Hall of Fame), but he has to keep doing it for a while, too."

Henry is currently ranked fourth in franchise history with 5,860 rushing yards behind these three Oilers/Titans:

-Eddie George, who rushed for 10,009 yards and 64 touchdowns on 2,733 carries with a 3.7-yard average with the franchise from 1996-2003.

-Earl Campbell, who rushed for 8,574 yards and 73 touchdowns on 1,979 carries and a 4.3-yard average from 1978-1984.

-Chris Johnson, who rushed for 7,965 yards and 50 touchdowns on 1,742 carries and a 4.6-yard average from 2008-2013.

Henry, a second-round draft pick of the Titans in the 2016 NFL Draft, has carried the ball 1,182 times through five seasons.

Campbell is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. King said he would consider George, who played in a Super Bowl but didn't win one.

But King doesn't believe winning a Super Bowl is a must to make the Hall of Fame.

Production trumps all, he said, and Henry just needs to keep producing.

"Everybody in that room has different feelings about various accomplishments," King said. "I look at the sports landscape, and this really isn't apples to apples, but Ted Williams didn't win a World Series, and Karl Malone didn't win an NBA Championship. Dan Marino didn't win a Super Bowl. I don't make my judgements for the Pro Football Hall of Fame based on somebody winning the Super Bowl. Does it help? Yes. But the fact Philip Rivers didn't play in a Super Bowl, in my opinion, doesn't disqualify him (from Hall of Fame consideration). It is a factor, but to say you have to win a Super Bowl to qualify for the Hall of Fame, I am not in that camp.

"I like where Derrick's career is headed, but big backs. … Earl Campbell did kind of fall off a cliff, but he was so incredibly dominant when he was great, in the late 70s and early 80s, that he did enough that everybody said: "Earl Campbell, he has to be in the Hall of Fame.' Well, when you watch Derrick Henry, I don't know how you can find a guy who has been more dominant over a short time frame. I'd say he's well on his way."

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