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Texans RB Draft Board

Posted Apr 29, 2014

A look at the Texans running back setup and who they could target in the upcoming draft.

More Texans Draft Boards
READ: Quarterbacks
READ: Wide Receivers

2013 Running Back recap


Rush offense (20th) - 108.9 yards per game
Lost leading rusher
Eight different running backs carried the ball at least once in 2013
Four different running backs started a game in 2013
Arian Foster returns after back injury, missed eight games

Key offseason additions: RB Andre Brown (signed after playing in New York in 2013)
Key offseason losses: RB Ben Tate (signed a free agent contract with Cleveland)

UFA:  None
RFA:  RB Deji Karim

Draft picks
1st (1)
2nd (33)
3rd (65)
4th (101)
4th (135 - Compensatory - pick cannot be moved)
5th (141)
6th (177)
6th (181 - from Oakland, in the Schaub deal, CAN be moved)
6th (211 - Compensatory - pick cannot be moved)
7th (216)
7th (256 - Compensatory - pick cannot be moved)

Running Back depth chart
Arian Foster
Andre Brown
Dennis Johnson
Jonathan Grimes
Ray Graham
Chad Spann

Fullback depth chart
Brad Smelley
Toben Opurum

No one’s ever questioned the value of a healthy Foster, but in his absence, it was crystal clear the immense value he provides this organization. He was the perfect fit for the zone blocking scheme the Texans ran the past seven years, but he might be an even more important cog in an offense that wants to capitalize on his dual threat skills. 

Foster averaged 53 receptions from 2010 to 2012 and his receiving ability gives the Texans offensive staff another way to exploit defenses.

After Ben Tate signed a free agent contract in Cleveland, the Texans signed Brown, formerly of the New York Giants. Ironically, Brown was the guy I wanted the Texans to draft in 2010 out of NC State.  Dennis Johnson showed flashes in 2013 before he got hurt. Those two, along with Grimes, will compete for the important second spot behind Foster.

With Foster and company in the stable currently, running back may not be a high priority in this year’s draft. However, there’s good value in this running back draft class on day three. I wouldn’t imagine the Texans will eye a running back earlier than that.

Draft Options
1st - None
2nd - None
3rd - None
4th - Charles Sims - West Virginia, Jerick McKinnon - Georgia Southern, Dri Archer - Kent State
5th - James White - Wisconsin, Lorenzo Taliaferro - Coastal Carolina, Storm Johnson - UCF
6th - Antonio Andrews - Western Kentucky
7th - Tim Flanders - Sam Houston State

UDFA - Ben Malena - Texas A&M, Charles Ross - Rice

At the Senior Bowl, an NFC North executive told me that Sims could play slot receiver for his team.  That wasn’t surprising at all, given how dynamic the former Mountaineer/Cougar is with the ball in his hands and how well he catches the ball in every area of the field. 

Unfortunately, his set of diverse skills should attract teams before day three. Unfortunate because he’s the perfect type of back to line up in the backfield, alongside Foster, creating mismatches in the passing game. And, if you think he’s a liability as a blocker, uh, think again. In Mobile, Sims and former UCLA linebacker Jordan Zumwalt had one of the best one-on-one pass blocking sessions I’ve seen, with Sims winning 60% or more of those battles.

McKinnon wasn’t the best overall back at the Senior Bowl (that was Sims) but he had the most “wow” runs, combining power and burst to embarrass the South defense on occasion. I love that burst and juice and he showed those assets against the FBS teams he faced as well - just ask Florida; the Gators know all about him. He played running back, slotback and quarterback at Georgia Southern and can even return kicks. 

He’ll have fans shaking their heads with his quickness. Unlike McKinnon, Archer didn’t play quarterback at Kent State but that’s about all he didn’t do. An injury plagued senior season in 2013 kept him off many radar screens but, like Sims, he can play in the slot as a receiver, be a key third down option out of the backfield and return kicks and punts. Lest I forget, he’s the fastest player in this draft class and one of the smallest (5’8” and 173 lb.).

Texans head coach Bill O’Brien should know White well. He faced him twice when the two competed against one another in the B1G. Outside of familiarity, why is White attractive?  Well, he isn’t the biggest back. He’s not the fastest. He’s not the quickest. He’s not the most productive. 

But, he does everything really well, such that he’ll be an asset, no matter what he’s asked to do. He’s a rock solid pass protector, tough as nails and possesses more shake than people believe. Taliaferro has ability to play tailback or fullback, while Johnson is a hammer who played for O’Brien’s former mentor George O’Leary at UCF.

Andrews set records at Western Kentucky for total offense, piling up yards rushing, receiving and returning (both punts and kicks).  He didn’t shine or stand out at the Senior Bowl, not to mention he’s had a ton of touches in his college career, so there may be worry about the loss of tread on the tire.  However, he’s a gem in the sixth round.

The running back position isn’t valued in the draft as it used to be, but that may work to the Texans favor in this draft. Some quality, versatile backs may be pushed right into their laps on day three due to the lack of true demand.

Content on HoustonTexans.com does not necessarily represent the views of the Houston Texans front office staff, coaches or executives.

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