Value of Things: Shoring up the Texans bench

NFL: Houston Texans at Baltimore Ravens
Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Where can the Texans look for running back depth?

As we have previously noted, the Houston Texans cleared another ten million in cap space when they restructured Tytus Howard’s contract. Clearly, they are not done shopping and while there aren’t any huge names left on the secondary market, there are some significant ones left. You might claim that there are few starting gigs left to fill, but Nick Caserio and DeMeco Ryans learned the importance of depth this past season.

The mantra at running back is pretty clear. The team needs more than what they got from Dameon Pierce last season from their backup running back. Sure, they could assume that Pierce will provide that, but I think most people would just as soon look somewhere else for at least some competition.

They could easily look to the middle rounds of the draft for that player as well. However, there are a few names out there that could provide quality depth at a much more affordable rate in April than they would have in March. The key is knowing what they will provide. For some, they might provide Joe Mixon with a breather for a series or two every game. For others, they may offer specific skills that could be useful in specific situations. First, let’s take a look at the low bar Pierce set last season.

145 carries, 416 yards, 2 TD, 13 catches, 101 yards, 0 TD

That comes out to a paltry 2.9 yards per carry. That was dead last amongst qualified runners and a success rate of 37.9 percent. For those new to the metric, that is something pro-football reference uses to grade the effectiveness of a player. It is a graduated formula that helps determine if a back is gaining enough yards to move the chains. You want your backs around 50 percent.

J.K. Dobbins

2023: 8 carries, 22 yards, 2.8 YPA, 50.0 success, 2 catches, 15 yards, 1 total TD
Career: 234 carries, 1,347 yards, 5.8 YPA, 56.8 success, 27 catches, 177 yards, 13 total TD

The good news is that there isn’t a whole lot of tread on those tires. The bad news is that he hasn’t turned in one healthy season yet. The thinking would be obvious here. The career per carry and success numbers are the best available on the market. The hope would be that if you can limit him to five to ten carries per game then you could possibly coax him through a season healthy. Realistically though, you’d want insurance for your insurance which means picking him up AND bringing in a third running back just in case.

Rashaad Penny

2023: 11 carries, 33 yards, 3,0 YPA, 45.5 success, 1 catch, 5 yards, 0 total TD
Career: 348 carries, 1,951 yards, 5.6 YPA, 46.0 success, 28 catches, 227 yards, 14 total TD

Penny was a ghost last season as well. Like Dobbins, he doesn’t have a ton of tread on the tires because he has never been a lead back. In that sense, you are getting someone used to the role. It would just be a question of whether he is that much better than Pierce. The career numbers say so, but this would have to be at a cost low enough where you would feel comfortable cutting him if it doesn’t work out.

Clyde Edwards-Helaire

2023: 70 carries, 223 yards, 3.2 YPA, 40.0 success, 17 catches, 188 yards, 2 total TDs
Career: 441 carries, 1,845 yards, 4.2 YPA, 51.0 success, 89 catches, 765 yards, 18 total TDs

Helaire was highly drafted and was supposed to be the Kansas City Chiefs primary back. That didn’t work out, but there are still some skills there. In particular, he might be the most dangerous receiving threat out of the backfield still on the market. This would be one of those change of scenery moves where you’d hope it would be a wakeup call for him to get serious and work to reach his full potential.

Dalvin Cook

2023: 67 carries, 214 yards, 3.2 YPA, 38.8 success, 15 catches, 78 yards, 0 total TD
Career: 1,349 carries, 6,207 yards, 4.6 YPA, 48.0 success, 236 catches, 1,872 yards, 52 total TD

Simply put, if you are still on the market you likely have some warts that are hard to hide. Cook fits into one of two bins. Either he is washed because he had a heavy workload early in his career or 2023 was just a lost season. He signed late and into a bad situation, so there is reason for optimism, but we also know that running backs have an expiration date, so any contract would have to be reasonable enough to get out of if he is past his.

Ezekiel Elliott

2023: 184 carries, 642 yards, 3.5 YPA, 45.1 success, 51 catches, 315 yards, 5 total TDs
Career: 2,065 carries, 8,904 yards, 4.3 YPA, 51.3 success, 356 catches, 2,649 yards, 74 total TDs

Elliott will get some Hall of Fame votes when he is done. He will end up sniffing 10,000 yards on the ground and 80+ touchdowns combined. Even in a bad New England Patriots offense he did some things well. He is an underrated receiving threat out of the backfield. Still, he is not an efficient runner. He reminds you of one of those shooters on a bad NBA team that averages 20 points a game because SOMEONE has to. However, if this weekly feature teaches us anything it is that there is a price point where everyone becomes valuable. The longer he sits on the open market the more likely he is to get to that price.

The Draft

I’d be remiss not to mention the draft. We saw what happens when the team brings in a bunch of veteran running backs with big names in 2021. It wasn’t pretty. Rookies come at a lower price and with less tread on the tires. Any analyst would be foolish not to acknowledge that. Still, there is nothing that says they can’t do both. 2023 proved you can never have too much of a good thing. One week it could look like you have too much depth and then the next week you are relying on that depth to get you through.

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Title: Value of Things: Shoring up the Texans bench
Author: VBallRetired

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