With Cedric Benson re-signing with the Cincinnati Bengals, the Texans once again are in the market for a running back to back up Steve Slaton. There don't seem to be any free agent prospects right now who would fit into assistant head coach Alex Gibbs' one-cut system.
Gibbs likes his backs to be quick, but he also needs a player with some power who can get the dirty yards when Slaton's on the bench. That player most likely will be found in the draft, quite possibly in the third round. Slaton was a third-round pick last season, and the Texans' brass have said they are focusing on defense first in this year's draft.
So which running backs would fit Houston's system and still be available in the third round?
Let me throw out some names that could drop to the third round and be great pick ups:
North Carolina's Andre Brown (6-0, 224) weighs a little more than the backs Gibbs tends to draft, but he's fast. He clocked the fourth fastest time in the 40-yard dash (4.49) at the scouting combine. Brown had a 1,000-yard season for the Wolfpack last year. He's a strong straight-ahead runner and he can use his strength in short-yardage situations.
Alabama's Glen Coffee (6-0, 209) has a great combination of size, strength and speed. He performed well in the 40, vertical and broad jump at the combine. Coffee finished last year with 1,383 yards (5.9 yards per carry) and 10 touchdowns.
Purdue's Kory Sheets (5-11, 208) may not be around in the third round after putting together impressive performances at the Senior Bowl and combine, where he ran the second fastest 40 with a time of 4.47. In his first year as starter, Sheets rushed for 1,131 yards in 2008. Many scouts now think he's one of the most underrated running back in the draft.
Virginia's Cedric Peerman (5-10, 216) also could be long gone after posting the fastest 40 time in Indy with a 4.45. Scouts have said that Peerman is quick to the hole, but he has been downgraded by some talent evaluators because missed the second half of the 2007 season with a Lisfranc injury on his right foot.
A lot of people have asked me about Texas A&M's Mike Goodson (6-0, 208) and Connecticut'sDonald Brown (5-10, 210). I saw both prospects put up great numbers at the combine and talked to scouts about their draft status. Brown came out of Indy looking like one of the best backs in the draft. Scouts love his speed and shiftiness, and they say Brown's numbers speak for themselves: 2,083 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns as a junior last year. Brown is looking like a first-day guy.
Goodson also generated his fair share of buzz in Indy after testing well in the 40, vertical jump, broad jump, 3-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle. Scouts have said his versatility and speed give him the tools to be an impact player in the NFL, but many think he's more of a second-round player.