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Travis Henry and the Denver Broncos, A Match Made in Heaven

There were a lot of Running Backs that changed addresses this offseason, but Travis Henry going to the Denver Broncos was hands down the most significant of them all.  Whenever a proven player with his production goes to a team with their type of running game, first round potential is there.  Travis Henry’s style fits perfect into what Denver is trying to accomplish with their running game.  Denver has been looking for a runner who can be decisive with the ball, press the hole, make one cut and run downhill; and that is exactly what Travis Henry has done his whole career.

Mike Shanahan has been the coach of the Denver Broncos for 12 years. In 9 of the seasons the Denver rushing attack has finished in the top 5, and in only one of the 12 years has Denver not been ranked in the top ten NFL teams in rushing. That is just a little taste of what we are working with here. Travis Henry carries in a respectable 4.1 yards per carry career rushing average, including a career best 4.5 average from last season with the Titans as he rushed for 1211 yards on only 270 carries. Henry only has 1321 carries for his career, a much lower number then people might believe.  He reached his carry best average in 2006 by showing great burst through the line of scrimmage, breaking a lot of tackles and rarely ever going down on first contact. He even showed the ability to break big plays during the year, including a 57 yard run that was called back against the Bills in week 16 that would have made his rushing totals even higher. Henry’s production cannot be questioned as he has only been asked to carry the load three different times throughout his career. Those years were 2002, 2003 and 2006; he played in 16 games with 325 carries, 15 games with 331 carries and 14 games with 270 carries respectively. Those numbers indicate to me that when asked to carry the load, he has always been up to the task, and his so called durability concerns should not be a concern.

As productive as Henry has been, there are many reasons to believe he will achieve even better numbers in 2007 with the Broncos.  Looking back into recent seasons of successful Denver running backs, it is clear their best numbers also came while playing at Mile High. Reuben Droughns for example rushed for 1240 yards with a career best 4.5 yards per carry and a career best in rushing touchdowns. In the past two seasons with the Cleveland Browns, Droughns carried the rock 529 times, netting only a 3.7 yards per carry average. Clinton Portis fits into this category as well.  In Portis’ two seasons in Denver he averaged an astounding 5.5 yards per carry and rushed for almost 3100 yards. In his three years combined with the Redskins he has rushed the ball 822 times for 3354 yards with only a 4.1 average. Portis had 29 rushing touchdowns with Denver in two years and has only 23 in three years with Washington. Travis Henry’s average might not jump up an extra 1.4 yards per carry as Clinton Portis’ did, but it definitely will go up even higher then his career best 4.5 average in 2006.

Another question remaining about Henry might be if he is truly the man in Denver or if Mike Shanahan is just using him in another committee.  All signs point to a heavy workload for Mr. Henry.  Not only did they trade away Tatum Bell, but they paid Travis 12 million dollars up front, and teams just don’t do that for any average joe in a running back-by-committee.  That almost assures him of 300 carries with an extra 30-35 receptions.  And as his average climbs to around the 4.6-4.7 range, you are looking at a minimum of about 1400 rushing yards.  In 2006, he only carried the ball 30 times weeks 1 though 4, but when he was truly called upon as the featured back in the Titans offense from week 5 through the end of the year, he produced six 100 yard rushing performances in 12 games.  In those same 12 games he rushed for 1129 yards, a 94.1 yards per game average, which in a 16 game schedule translates to an amazing 1505 rushing yards.  As for his touchdown total, things look very promising there as well. Henry scored double digits touchdowns in 2002 and 2003 and should easily reach those totals again in 2007. Henry only carried the ball 34 times in the redzone last season for the Titans, while Mike Bell and Tatum Bell combined for 58 carries.  Henry had 7 rushing touchdowns last season, add an extra 24 carries inside the 20 and combine that with the fact that he is a much more powerful goal line runner then Mike or Tatum Bell could ever even think about being, and you are looking at atl east 10 with the potential of 15 rushing scores.

Another safe bet concerning the Broncos is that their offense is improving as a whole. Jay Cutler’s arm will bring a whole new dimension to offense, as teams never had to worry about Jake Plummer’s arm beating them deep too many times. Throw in the super explosive Javon Walker who is now an extra season removed from his ACL injury, and up and comer Brandon Marshall into the mix, and those safeties are backing off even further.  I expect Denver to create many scoring opportunities for Travis Henry, and with a healthy offensive line as is the case right now in Bronco land, all signs are pointing to a easy top ten finish for Travis Henry with an upside of a top 5 finish. If you are picking late in the first round there should be no hesitation about pulling the trigger on this guy as your number one fantasy running back because the Denver Broncos and Travis Henry are a match made in heaven.

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