As the new NFL season looms and questions remain over whether COVID-19 will continue to be a threat, teams are gearing up for what they hope will be a normal season. Last year was a bust as the NFL was forced to play games in empty or mostly-empty stadiums and no one wants to see a repeat. What they wouldn’t mind seeing a repeat of, though, are great performances by some of the league’s running backs. Player prop bets are out ahead of the start of preseason action this Thursday, and Derrick Henry of the Tennessee Titans is expected to have another banner year.
Derrick Henry Continues to Produce Magic
Henry launched his NFL career with the Tennessee Titans in 2016 and hasn’t looked anywhere else since then. The running back was the NFL rushing yards leader in 2019 and 2020, as well as the league’s rushing touchdowns leader in the same two years, and is one of just eight players in the history of the NFL to have topped 2,000 rushing yards. Last year, he picked up 2,207, adding to it 378 rushing attempts and 17 rushing touchdowns, leading all NFL running backs in the three categories.
According to BetOnline, Henry is going to have another banner year. He is getting +350 to be the league’s leading rusher this year and, if he does, he will be the first back to lead the league for three consecutive years since Emmitt Smith did it with the Dallas Cowboys in the 1990s. Unlike Smith, however, Henry is still waiting for his first Super Bowl title. Smith had three with the ‘Boys in his early years with the team.
Dalvin Cook Ready to Rumble
Dalvin Cook was the all-time leading rusher at Florida State University, with 4,464, before exchanging the books for a football. He was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in the second round of the NFL Draft in 2017 and has shown that his college days were just the beginning. He has a total of 3,661 rushing yards and 33 rushing touchdowns since entering the league, and is also a skilled receiver. This season, and shortly after having finally graduated from Florida State, he’s going to have an exceptional year.
Oddsmakers have him at +550 to accumulate the most rushing yards this season. He had 1,557 last season and, if he can put up numbers like that again, he has a chance of succeeding. Henry played two more games than Cook last year, with the Titans giving him some downtime late in the season.
Panthers Get Back McCaffrey
Even if the Carolina Panthers had been able to count on Christian McCaffrey last season, they probably wouldn’t have performed much better. A few changes and new talent to the team this year could make a difference, and McCaffrey should be back and better than ever. He was out for much of last season due to injuries, but is ready to show his stuff when the Panthers take on the Indianapolis Colts on August 15.
McCaffrey has 3,145 total rushing yards since he was signed by the Panthers in 2017. He continued to get better throughout his career before last year’s injury and, with 29 rushing touchdowns, is a formidable component of the team’s offense. In the first game last season, he carried 23 times for just under 100 yards, picking up two rushing touchdowns in the process. Now rested and recovered, he enters the list of top rushers this year at number four, getting +900 from BetOnline. McCaffrey shares the spot with Jonathan Taylor of the Colts, so the first preseason game will be a chance for both of them to shine.
Other Backs Make the Cut
Saquon Barkley of the New York Giants falls next on the list, with odds of +1000. Since joining the league and the Giants in 2018, he has racked up 2,344 yards and 17 touchdowns on the ground. Ezekiel Elliott of the Dallas Cowboys is always a dominating force, as evidenced by his 6,384 rushing yards and 1,957 yards in the air. However, oddsmakers could be expecting an off-year, giving him odds of +1400.
There are three backs tied with the longest odds for most yards rushing this year. Alvin Kamara of the New Orleans Saints, James Robinson of the Jacksonville Jaguars and Melvin Gordon of the Denver Broncos are all getting +5000.