Could the Houston Texans go shopping for a big upgrade at the running back position this offseason? That’s the topic that Matt Harmon and Andy Behrens tackled among many in a recent episode of the Yahoo Fantasy Football Show.
Incumbent Dameon Pierce proved to be a poor fit for the outside zone running scheme that offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik brought over from the San Francisco 49ers. Pierce was returning more kickoffs than getting actual carries by the end of the season.
Devin Singletary filled in admirably, even topping 100 rushing yards three times after Week 9, but he’s going to become a free agent this offseason.
Looking at other teams that run a similar rushing scheme, the running back success stories have to leave Texans fans salivating at the possibilities. Christian McCaffrey is the gold standard in the 49ers' attack, combining for 2,023 scrimmage yards and 21 touchdowns. Kyren Williams was the RB4 in 2023, even though he missed four games. Raheem Mostert finished as the RB2, and De’Von Achane rushed for 800 yards on just 103 carries for a wild 7.8 yards per carry.
So it was easy for Harmon and Behrens — and fantasy managers — to dream of what would happen if an elite running back were plopped into a Houston offense that already had C.J. Stroud facing second-year quarterback hype that could probably surpass Justin Herbert's from a few years ago. It will be fun to monitor the ADPs of wide receivers Nico Collins and Tank Dell in the months ahead.
Running back, though, could be a blank slate.
Could the Texans go shopping at the NFL Draft? Most definitely. But there could also be some good fits in free agency. Among running backs who are going to be free agents, there is a handful that has had greater than 50% success rate running in zone concepts, according to Fantasy Points Date: Tony Pollard (57.9%), D’Andre Swift (54.0%), D’Onta Foreman (53.8%) and Austin Ekeler (51.8%). Saquon Barkley was at 43.3%, though he might have done better if he weren’t running behind such a porous offensive line.
This is going to be a fascinating backfield, as there is so much room for growth after Houston finished 22nd in the NFL with 1,647 team rushing yards. Of the teams listed above, the 49ers were third with 2,389 rushing yards, the Dolphins sixth at 2,308 and the Rams 11th with 2,045.
"There are going to be a lot of big names available on the running back market,” Harmon said on the podcast above. “And if I'm the Texans, I would try to shoot high at running back because you are not paying any of these young passing-game players at this point. Bring in a veteran running back, and I think that running game can really take another step in Houston.”