Running back is currently a major position of need for the Houston Texans. Although there are certainly plenty of other holes to be filled, the run game has had no consistency whatsoever. The team recently parted ways with free agent acquisition Phillip Lindsay, and that wasn’t the first ball carrier they moved on from this season after Mark Ingram was traded to the Saints just a month ago.
To make matters worse, all four running backs currently left on the roster—Rex Burkhead, David Johnson, Scottie Phillips, and Royce Freeman—have contracts that expire after this season. Given how they’ve performed so far, it’s unlikely that any of them will be brought back. With a clean sweep looking imminent as 2022 approaches, I’ve compiled a list of three running backs that Houston should pursue in the 2022 NFL Draft. Although Houston obviously won’t get their hands on all of these guys, just one is enough to start turning things around.
Kenneth Walker III, Michigan State
Walker has been one of the players mentioned in regards to the Heisman Trophy. While he’s unlikely to win the award, Walker is still one of the best players in the nation. So far, he has 1,498 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns on the season, all while averaging 6.4 yards per carry. This is Walker’s first year at Michigan State since he transferred from Wake Forest during the offseason. Walker already has more rushing yards in 2021 than he had in his two years in the ACC combined, which proves how quickly he’s developed. Walker will likely be one of the first backs off the board, and with the Texanscurrently holding the 34th overall pick (second round), it’s a near perfect fit.
Isaiah Spiller, Texas A&M
Spiller, who plays just up the road in College Station, is another back who should be available in the early second round. He has 984 rushing yards and 6 touchdowns in 2021. Last season, he went over 1,000 yards as a sophomore, and is right on the verge of hitting that number again as a junior. There’s no doubt that Spiller can make an impact in the NFL. Unlike Walker, he has a more notable role in the receiving game. The Texans would give Spiller the opportunity to stay close to home, and he’d likely get a decent workload from day one.
Sincere McCormick, UTSA
McCormick is another Texas native and has been the backbone of a historic season for the UTSA Roadrunners. The team was undefeated through 11 games until losing to North Texas and has dropped out of the top 25. McCormick has 1,215 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns, adding on to what has been a very impressive collegiate career. Last year, McCormick had 1,467 yards and 11 touchdowns, averaging a full yard more (per carry) than his current junior campaign. The only knock on McCormick is the level of competition that he’s facing since UTSA is not a Power 5 school. This will likely hinder his draft stock, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be on the board forever. The Texans have a fourth-round pick (124th overall) that matches my evaluation for McCormick, so it wouldn’t hurt taking a chance on him at that spot.