Fantasy Football: What can TRAP and high-value touches tell us about Derrick Henry for 2020?

Standing 6-foot-3 and running a 4.54 40 at 247 pounds, Derrick Henry is a physical outlier at the running back position. He's also a statistical outlier, and it makes evaluating his 2020 prospects a challenge. 

Back in July, I introduced a stat called "TRAP" — "Trivial Rush Attempt Percentage." If you read Stealing Signals at all this year, you're familiar with it. The short breakdown is that receptions and touches inside the 10-yard line are deemed high-value touches for running backs, because while just under a quarter of all running back touches from 2014-2018 were those types of touches, they accounted for 58% of all running back PPR Fantasy points. The other three-quarters of touches were trivial rush attempts — carries outside the prime area for scoring touchdowns — AKA "between the 20s" rushes. 

Across the five seasons leading into 2019, a player's high-value touches correlated more strongly with his PPR Fantasy points than his total touches did. That means we can look at the ratio of a player's total touches that are high-value and low-value to better understand which players have the potential for strong Fantasy workloads and which have touch totals that are hollower. That is a player's TRAP — the percentage of his total touches that were low-value, trivial rush attempts. A higher percentage indicates a worse touch profile. 

2019 TRAP results

In 2019, high-value touches accounted for a slightly larger percentage of total touches among the league's backs, and the league average TRAP fell to 73.9%. That makes sense, as we saw some historic receiving seasons from running backs in 2019, most notably from Christian McCaffrey and Austin Ekeler

Here are the 27 backs who finished with at least 200 touches in 2019, with a look at their total touches, high-value touches, TRAP and the amount of PPR points they scored per high-value touch"

Player

PPR FP

Touches

HVT

TRAP

PPR/HVT

Christian McCaffrey

471.2

403

148

63.3%

3.2

Aaron Jones

318.8

285

68

76.1%

4.7

Ezekiel Elliott

315.7

355

85

76.1%

3.7

Austin Ekeler

313

224

103

54.0%

3.0

Derrick Henry

300.5

321

42

86.9%

7.2

Dalvin Cook

297.7

303

85

71.9%

3.5

Leonard Fournette

261.3

341

99

71.0%

2.6

Nick Chubb

261.1

333

68

79.6%

3.8

Alvin Kamara

250.65

252

95

62.3%

2.6

Mark Ingram

246

227

52

77.1%

4.7

Saquon Barkley

244.1

269

68

74.7%

3.6

Chris Carson

240.9

315

57

81.9%

4.2

Joe Mixon

225.5

313

60

80.8%

3.8

Todd Gurley

223.4

254

60

76.4%

3.7

Miles Sanders

220.6

228

64

71.9%

3.4

Le'Veon Bell

217

312

75

76.0%

2.9

Kenyan Drake

216.2

221

63

71.5%

3.4

Devonta Freeman

201.6

243

62

74.5%

3.3

Phillip Lindsay

197.7

259

47

81.9%

4.2

Josh Jacobs

193.6

262

41

84.4%

4.7

Melvin Gordon

186.8

204

62

69.6%

3.0

Marlon Mack

181.3

261

31

88.1%

5.8

David Montgomery

174.4

267

48

82.0%

3.6

Ronald Jones

170.3

203

41

79.8%

4.2

Carlos Hyde

157.2

255

26

89.8%

6.0

Adrian Peterson

151

228

28

87.7%

5.4

Sony Michel

148.4

258

39

84.9%

3.8

One thing that should stand out immediately is backs with higher TRAPs tended to perform worse relative to their total touches, while those who racked up high-value touches tended to perform better. Another thing that should stand out is Derrick Henry's TRAP, as the only one over 80% among the league's top 10 Fantasy backs.

What does the future hold for Henry?

Henry finished as RB5 in PPR leagues in 2019, and in doing so became the first player since 2012 to finish in the top five at the position in PPR scoring while catching fewer than 30 passes. Because of how I like to analyze running backs, he's become something of a fascination for me, and I've been itching to dig into him more. 

In particular, I wanted to look into two things: 1) Can he repeat or perhaps even build on his 2019 performance? 2) Can his TRAP change in a meaningful way, particularly in terms of catching more passes?

To get at both of these questions, I wanted to look at players who had produced similar seasons to Henry's 2019. I often don't like to go too far back with running back comps, because the way running backs are used has changed substantially in the past decade. But Henry is a perfect example of a throwback to an earlier era, as is his usage, so for him those comps are much more appropriate. 

I added the PPR points per high-value touch column to the table above, because it represents a type of efficiency I was curious about in sustainability terms. Throughout Henry's young career, he's never been one to rack up high-value touches, and he's maintained a TRAP above 80% each season. But in 2019, he produced far more PPR points per high-value touch than in any year prior. 

Player

Year

PPR FP

Touches

HVT

TRAP

PPR/HVT

Derrick Henry

2016

105.7

123

24

80.5%

4.4

Derrick Henry

2017

135

187

25

86.6%

5.4

Derrick Henry

2018

203.5

230

37

83.9%

5.5

Derrick Henry

2019

300.5

321

42

86.9%

7.2

Per the RotoViz Screener, there were 157 running back seasons from 2000-2018 of 250 or more PPR points. Just three times did a running back produce that many points with fewer high-value touches than Henry's 42 in 2019. 

But history is not without positive comps for Henry's particular type of Fantasy production. Among the top-10 seasons in PPR/HVT in this sample, we find not one but two players showing up with consecutive seasons of this type of production. 

Player

Season

PPR

Touches

HVT

TRAP

PPR/HVT

Adrian Peterson

2007

258

257

24

90.7%

10.8

DeAngelo Williams

2008

306.9

294

41

86.1%

7.5

Alfred Morris

2012

258

346

35

89.9%

7.4

Shaun Alexander

2005

378.8

385

53

86.2%

7.1

Adrian Peterson

2008

269.5

384

43

88.8%

6.3

Michael Turner

2008

282

382

45

88.2%

6.3

Jamal Lewis

2003

343.1

414

55

86.7%

6.2

Ezekiel Elliott

2016

327.5

353

55

84.4%

6.0

Shaun Alexander

2004

329.6

376

56

85.1%

5.9

Marshawn Lynch

2012

273.6

338

47

86.1%

5.8

Chris Johnson

2009

398.9

408

72

82.4%

5.5

Clinton Portis

2002

322.2

306

59

80.7%

5.5

Robert Smith

2000

282.9

331

52

84.3%

5.4

Larry Johnson

2005

368.3

369

68

81.6%

5.4

Ahman Green

2003

395

405

73

82.0%

5.4

Arian Foster

2014

277.55

298

52

82.6%

5.3

C.J. Spiller

2012

261.3

250

50

80.0%

5.2

Clinton Portis

2003

314.5

328

61

81.4%

5.2

Adrian Peterson

2012

351.4

388

69

82.2%

5.1

Jamaal Charles

2010

286.5

275

58

78.9%

4.9

Adrian Peterson backed up up his hyper-efficient rookie year with another highly-efficient second season, again without racking up many high-value touches. He led the league in rushing yards per game each season. 

Prime Shaun Alexander backed up a big 2004 with an even bigger 2005 season while posting even fewer high-value touches. He went from fourth in rushing yards per game in 2004 to leading the league in 2005, and led the league in total touchdowns each season. 

Henry led the league in 2019 in rushing attempts and yards, and finished one back from Christian McCaffrey and Aaron Jones for total touchdowns. 

But Peterson and Alexander aren't the only names on the above list. Here's how the ensuing season for each of those players looked: 

Player

Season

N+1 PPR

N+1 Touches

N+1 HVT

N+1 TRAP

N+1 PPR/HVT

Adrian Peterson

2007

269.5

384

43

88.8%

6.3

DeAngelo Williams

2008

209.9

245

43

82.4%

4.9

Alfred Morris

2012

186.3

285

24

91.6%

7.8

Shaun Alexander

2005

148.4

264

23

91.3%

6.5

Adrian Peterson

2008

332.9

357

85

76.2%

3.9

Michael Turner

2008

155.6

183

19

89.6%

8.2

Jamal Lewis

2003

164.1

245

27

89.0%

6.1

Ezekiel Elliott

2016

203.2

268

46

82.8%

4.4

Shaun Alexander

2004

378.8

385

53

86.2%

7.1

Marshawn Lynch

2012

277.3

337

73

78.3%

3.8

Chris Johnson

2009

276.9

360

68

81.1%

4.1

Clinton Portis

2002

314.5

328

61

81.4%

5.2

Robert Smith

2000

n/a

n/a

n/a

n/a

n/a

Larry Johnson

2005

374.9

457

86

81.2%

4.4

Ahman Green

2003

236.8

299

57

80.9%

4.2

Arian Foster

2014

79

85

26

69.4%

3.0

C.J. Spiller

2012

156.8

235

38

83.8%

4.1

Clinton Portis

2003

241.75

383

63

83.6%

3.8

Adrian Peterson

2012

238.7

308

49

84.1%

4.9

Jamaal Charles

2010

20.2

17

5

70.6%

4.0

Several had a hard time posting the same number of touches, and efficiency dipped for many, results that are to be expected for running backs. We also see that the majority didn't see significantly altered touch mixes, and still maintained a TRAP over 80%. 

Where do we take Henry in 2020?

Henry is a physical outlier. 

While Henry was and remains a poster boy for a player with a huge touch total that doesn't feature many high-value touches (i.e. a TRAP back), the specific player he is shouldn't get lost in deep looks into the numbers. 

But while that's something I'll be keeping in mind throughout the 2020 offseason, there are still reasons to wonder whether his spike in 2019 efficiency — something we didn't see from him across the 2016-2018 seasons, at least not to this degree — can carry over into 2020. We'll also have to keep in mind that running backs by their nature tend to get hurt at a high rate, and that it's difficult to sustain any type of high-end production from one year to the next at such a volatile position. 

Henry will be one of the toughest players for me to rank in 2020, because his lack of high-value touches and reliance on elite efficiency in 2019 indicate this could easily go down as a career year. And why wouldn't it? It's hard to imagine things going more right for him, given the high rate of long touchdowns week in and week out. 

But there's also reason for optimism. He'll be the locked-in lead back again in Tennessee, his TRAP was actually a career high in 2019 (and could very well improve a few percentage points as a result) and there are examples in the not-too-distant past — from the early part of Adrian Peterson's career to the prime of Shaun Alexander's — that indicate it wouldn't be unprecedented if he sustained a solid amount of his particular type of efficiency. 

I'd love to see Henry as a second-round pick in 2020, not someone to invest in within the top-10 picks. That doesn't seem particularly likely to happen, given what he just accomplished in 2019. So will he be worth a first-round selection? He'd have to be an outlier. But maybe that's exactly what he is. 

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