*This article is part of our 2012 Path to the Draft coverage presented by Warehouse Pool Supply
State of the Position (@NickScurfield)
Behind Arian Foster and Ben Tate, there's a vacancy on the Texans' depth chart at running back.
Foster and Tate formed the top running back tandem in the NFL in 2011. Foster ranked fifth in the league with 1,224 rushing yards despite missing three games. He also had 617 receiving yards. Tate had 942 rushing yards and ranked seventh in the league with 5.4 yards per carry.
The Texans have not re-signed veteran Derrick Ward, who remains an unrestricted free agent. Ward, 31, was the third running back in 2011 and the second running back behind Foster in 2010, when he averaged 6.3 yards per carry and scored four touchdowns.
The Texans could bring back Ward or bring in another veteran, or they could look for a third back late in the draft. Foster re-signed to a long-term contract in March, while Tate has two years left on his rookie contract.
DAY 1 RUNNING BACK OPTIONS AT 1.26
1. David Wilson, Virginia Tech (5-10, 205): Wilson amassed an impressive 1,709 rushing yards (5.9 YPC) and nine scores in 14 games for the Hokies last season that also featured 22 receptions out of the backfield. He's a compact player who runs stronger/harder than you would expect from a guy his size. Has a dynamic quality to his game both inside and in the open field and looks capable of maturing into a very good NFL running back early in his professional career.
2. Doug Martin, Boise State (5-9, 215): A versatile running back who rushed for over 1,200 yards in each of the last two years, Martin rolled up a staggering 43 rushing touchdowns during his four seasons with the Broncos. Martin isn't a dynamic size/speed back, but there aren't many negatives to his game. He plays fast, runs low, is natural through the line of scrimmage and has a skill set somewhat similar to former Alabama RB Mark Ingram. Martin could fall a bit because he doesn't run overly well, but he has the skill set to start in the league.
DAY 2 RUNNING BACK OPTIONS AT 2.26 AND 3.13
1. Chris Polk, Washington (5-11, 222): Polk recorded over 1,400 rushing yards in each of his last two seasons at Washington and finished his four-year career with a total of 799 rushing attempts…so you know he's got some experience taking a pounding. He catches the football well out of the backfield, looks natural snatching throws off his frame and has experience as a wideout in high school. Is also a natural blocker in blitz pick-up, is able to quickly recognize the rush, slide his feet and anchor on contact.
2. Robert Turbin, Utah State (5-10, 216): A dual-threat back who rushed for 1,517 yards and 19 touchdowns last season, Turbin average over 6.0 yards per carry in each of his last two years at Utah State. Physically, he reminds us a bit of New York Jets RB Shonn Greene. But as a runner, Turbin looks more natural as a zone guy who he can use his cutback ability to pick his way through traffic, square his shoulders and then attack daylight. Has the skill set to mature into a starter at the next level, but because of his lack of a great burst, he doesn't strike us as a guy who is ever going to have gaudy yards per carry averages.
DAY 3 RUNNING BACK OPTONS AT 4.4, 4.26, 5.26, 6.26 AND 7.26
1. Vick Ballard, Mississippi State (5-11, 220): A strong, physical runner who found the end zone 29 times in 25 games at Mississippi State, Ballard is the type of guy who brings power to the backfield. He's a tough, no-nonsense type runner who gets north/south very quickly. Ballard possesses some natural running skills and is a strong kid who always falls forward, but he isn't going to break nearly as many tackles in the NFL as he did in college. We think he could struggle averaging over 4.0 yards per carry.
2. Marc Tyler, Southern California (5-11, 230): Tyler only carried the ball 334 times during his four years with the Trojans, but he averaged a healthy 5.2 yards per carry and found the end zone 15 times while sharing the backfield duties. He's a big back who possesses a good feel inside, can pick his way through tight quarters and finish runs, but Tyler isn't as dynamic as some of the other ball-carriers in this year's draft. He's probably worth a later-round pick and should be able to make a roster as a number three.