Arian Foster walked into the 2009 Houston Texans’ locker room as the fourth string running back by a wide margin. He left in 2015 as the holder of almost every significant rushing stat for the franchise. Foster’s story has led the way to numerous undrafted free agents getting their chance to succeed in the cut throat NFL system.
It’s rare if it happens once, but it’s even more rare for it to happen twice. Houston hopefully has struck gold twice by signing undrafted rookie free agent (UDFA) running back Xazavian Valladay from Arizona State to the roster.
Valladay has everything you want in a running back. He’s a down-hill runner with enough speed to break away at the second level, plus he’s got enough pass catching capabilities to add to the aerial threat. His primary calling card is his elusiveness and directness in his approach to the line of scrimmage.
The comparison from Valladay to Foster doesn’t stop as being UDFAs and running backs. Both were four-year starters, possessed great workloads in college, and were fairly efficient getting into the end zone. Here’s Foster’s college stats in comparison to Valladay:
In their own ways, both back’s had a murky path to a starting role. Arian had to fend off a deep cast of backs in his first year, plus consistently keep Ben Tate as the RB2 on the team. Valladay conversely will have to first make the roster over free agent signings Mike Boone, and Gerrid Doaks along with Dare Ogunbowale. Houston has a fairly entrenched duo in Dameon Pierce and Devin Singletary, which limits the number of spots on the roster for running backs. Even still, he’ll need to convince the coaching staff that three RBs is valuable enough to hold on the 53-man roster.
Valladay calls to mind the running style, pace, and fluidity of Devonta Freeman. Freeman was a much shorter, stouter back, but both had the ability to catch out of the backfield and find their hole with distinct force.
#Texans rookies C.J. Stroud & Xazavian Valladay. pic.twitter.com/MfeqE66E06— Coty M. Davis (@CotyDavis_24) May 13, 2023
The Texans, too, see the value and potential in Valladay. They signed him to the fifth most guaranteed money out of any UDFA this year.
At a minimum, what Texans fan should see in Valladay is a fantastic complement to Dameon Pierce and the Texans new free agent running back Devin Singletary. At most, Houston could possess it’s next great steal and running back prodigy.