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RB Index, Week 15: Derrick Henry should reset the RB market

Derrick Henry has been on an absolute tear for the last month. Since Week 10, the Tennessee Titans star running back has averaged 21.5 carries and 149.8 rush yards per game for a whopping 7.0 yards per carry. And he's rushed for seven TDs in that span!

Henry's been on another level even when playing through injury, and Tennessee is enjoying the fruits of his labor, going 4-0 during his hot streak. In fact, the Titans have a legitimate chance to win their first AFC South title since 2008. The division lead will be on the line Sunday when the Houston Texans visit Nashville, and with all due respect to the spark Ryan Tannehill has provided, Mike Vrabel's team would not be where it is today without Henry, who ranks second in the league in rushing yards (1,243) heading into Week 15 -- just 38 yards behind Cleveland's Nick Chubb.

In the midst of the team's winning streak, the topic of what the future holds for Henry has bubbled up, as he's set to become a free agent in the offseason. I think it's fair to ask whether the fourth-year pro should become the highest-paid player at his position in 2020.

To me, the answer to that question is a resounding yes!

Back in September, Ezekiel Elliott reset the market at running back after signing a six-year, $90 million contract extension with the Dallas Cowboys. His deal gives him an average of $15 million per year, topping Todd Gurley's $14.375 million-per-year mark, which was the previous high. However, if Henry gets what he deserves -- whether Tennessee or a different team pays him this offseason -- Zeke's spot at the top won't last long.

I know Elliott's resume is more impressive with two league rushing titles and Pro Bowl nods in his first three seasons, but the two players have comparable production when you look at their late-season numbers. According to NFL Research, Henry and Zeke are the only two players in the NFL with 2,000-plus rush yards between Weeks 10-17 since 2016. And when looking at rushing touchdowns in that span, Henry stands alone with 23. And don't forget, he put the team on his back in the Titans' only playoff win in the past 15 years, racking up 156 yards (6.8 yards per carry) to shock the Chiefs in the Wild Card Round a couple seasons ago. He plays his best ball down the stretch, with his size (6-foot-3, 247 pounds) and bruising running style making him a unique game-changer. He's able to punish defenders of all shapes and sizes and often drags multiple players with him on the way to a first down or touchdown.

The thing is, I don't think the Titans coaching staff has taken advantage of Henry's entire skill set. Remember Henry's performance at Alabama's pro day back in 2016? The Heisman Trophy winner stepped in as a receiver and wowed scouts with his hands and route-running ability. The Titans haven't fully tapped into that facet of his game yet, but Henry's usage in the pass game has increased slightly each year. This season, he's set a career-high in targets (23), receptions (18), receiving yards (206) and receiving TDs (2), including a 75-yard TD in Week 1.

Now, the Titans have reportedly not yet discussed an extension with Henry and they'll have the option of using the franchise tag on him this offseason, but he has earned every penny of a market-resetting deal with his play since becoming the team's full-time starter in 2018. The scary thing is there is still room for him to improve.

Now, let's get to the weekly rankings ...

Former NFL rushing leader and NFL Network analyst Maurice Jones-Drew will survey all running backs and rank his TOP 10 each week for the final month of the 2019 season. His rankings are based on this season's efforts alone. Here is MJD's list heading into Week 15.

NOTE: Arrows reflect changes from last week's rankings.

Check out the FedEx Air NFL Players of the Week and cast your vote.

2019 stats: 13 games | 246 att | 1,220 rush yds | 5.0 ypc | 12 rush TDs | 86 rec | 726 rec yds | 4 rec TDs

McCaffrey has more scrimmage yards (1,946) through his team's first 13 games than any of the four running backs to win MVP since 2000 (LaDainian Tomlinson, Adrian Peterson, Marshall Faulk and Shaun Alexander). I mention this almost every week but it's so impressive when you consider the seasons those four had. It's unfortunate that the Panthers' season has gotten away from them over the last few weeks, but McCaffrey is still worth tuning in for.

2019 stats: 13 games | 250 att | 1,243 rush yds | 5.0 ypc | 13 rush TDs | 18 rec | 206 rec yds | 2 rec TDs

I just discussed in the intro reasons why Henry continues to rise in the rankings. Just ahead are two games against the Houston Texans and another vs. the Saints, with a lot weighing on the division bouts that bookend the final three weeks of the season. That could be a good thing as the Texans' defense has allowed two 100-yard rushers in the last four weeks after not allowing one in Weeks 1-10. It's time for Henry to take over and get the Titans into the postseason.

2019 stats: 13 games | 241 att | 1,108 rush yds | 4.6 ypc | 13 rush TDs | 50 rec | 503 rec yds | 0 rec TDs

What a relief to see Cook out there scoring a week after he exited a game with a shoulder injury. The Vikings, who have been without Adam Thielen for most of the season, need Cook on the field down the stretch to hold off the surging Rams and Bears. Cook has been a playmaker for the offense all season long and is tied with Derrick Henry for the most rush touchdowns this season heading into Week 15.

2019 stats: 13 games | 246 att | 1,071 rush yds | 4.4 ypc | 9 rush TDs | 41 rec | 338 rec yds | 1 rec TD

It felt like Zeke was the only one doing anything for the Cowboys' offense against the Chicago Bears. The problem was that coordinator Kellen Moore didn't stick with the run game. I understand that will happen when playing from behind, but Elliott is Dallas' best athlete and was successful running outside the tackles, averaging 6.3 yards per carry on nine rushes. Moore is often too eager to shift away from the run game -- exactly what the Cowboys' offense shouldn't do.

2019 stats: 13 games | 253 att | 1,281 rush yds | 5.1 ypc | 7 rush TDs | 32 rec | 256 rec yds | 0 rec TDs

The MVP of the Browns' offense, Chubb had 99 of his 106 rush yards in the second half against the Bengals. His big Week 14 performance helped him retain the league lead in rushing yards. Derrick Henry is hot on his heels, so Chubb had better finish strong if the second-year back wants "NFL rushing champion" on his resume.

2019 stats: 12 games | 177 att | 721 rush yds | 4.1 ypc | 9 rush TDs | 26 rec | 168 rec yds | 1 rec TD

Gurley's turned the volume up over the last month with 75-plus rush yards and at least one rush TD in three of his last four games. While he's not playing at the same level he did for much of 2018, Gurley had zero such games in his first eight games of this season. In Sunday's win, Gurley had 27 touches but it still didn't feel like enough. I'm waiting for that vintage 30-touch performance when Gurley takes over.

2019 stats: 13 games | 175 att | 779 rush yds | 4.5 ypc | 12 rush TDs | 45 rec | 425 rec yds | 3 rec TDs

After a few down weeks, Jones bounced back in a major way against the Washington Redskins with 16 carries for 134 yards (8.4 yards per carry) and a TD, while adding six receptions for 58 yards. With the the inconsistency of the Packers' pass game, the third-year running back might have to lead the offense the rest of the way against three division opponents.

2019 stats: 9 games | 132 att | 523 rush yds | 4.0 ypc | 5 rush TD | 25 rec | 152 rec yds | 1 rec TD

 Austin Ekeler had the hot hand against the Jags, but Gordon also had himself a fine performance, scoring his first touchdown since Week 10. Gordon found his stride late in the season and is gaining nearly 5 yards per carry over the last month. Although he's having a solid final push, it's unfortunate that his season (and the team's) didn't go as planned. 

2019 stats: 13 games | 206 att | 789 rush yds | 3.8 ypc | 3 rush TDs | 29 rec | 230 rec yds | 3 rec TDs

Mixon set career highs in rush yards (146) and scrimmage yards (186) in Sunday's loss to Cleveland. The Bengals running back is finally producing like we expected him to early in the season with three rush TDs over the last four games. If he can continue to play this way, it'll be nice to see him finishing the year on a high note.

2019 stats: 13 games | 246 att | 1,057 rush yds | 4.3 ypc | 5 rush TDs | 35 rec | 242 rec yds | 2 rec TDs

Carson was outplayed by Todd Gurley on Sunday night, but he played well nonetheless in averaging 5.1 yards per carry. He eclipsed 1,000 rush yards Sunday for the second straight season -- the first Seahawks RB to do so in back-to-back seasons since Marshawn Lynch (2011-14). With running back Rashaad Penny (knee) out for the season, Carson must carry the load in the backfield and he's fully capable of doing so. Adding more pressure on Carson is a passing game that has struggled of late.

Just missed:Mark Ingram, Ravens; Alvin Kamara, Saints; Josh Jacobs, Raiders; Devin Singletary, Bills; Austin Ekeler, Chargers.

The Ground Index delivered by FedEx ranks NFL running back performances all season long. What is the possibility Derrick Henry earns the top spot next week? Check out the FedEx Air & Ground NFL Players of the Week and cast your vote.

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