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Value of Things: Houston Texans Roster Jigsaw— Running Backs

How much better is the running back room than last season?

NFL: Houston Texans at Dallas Cowboys Raymond Carlin III-USA TODAY Sports

The Value of Things feature began during the last offseason. Essentially, the concept is that everything has a value. There are qualitative values where we talk in general terms with no real eye for anything exact. Then, there is the quantitative. How much is a player actually worth in real dollars? Back in the good ole’ days you didn’t have to concern yourself with such things. You could build a roster of 53 guys and pay as much as you want. Now, you have to work within the constraints of a salary cap.

The value of something and the importance of something are often two different things. The sooner we wrap our heads around that the sooner we will see the wisdom or lack of wisdom behind a team’s moves and strategies. Place kicking and punting is important. When you have an accurate kicker or a punter that can pin a team deep in their territory you win more games. So, it definitely is important. Yet, it is debatable as to how rare that skill is. So, while it is important it is not particularly valuable in financial terms.

The running back position is similar. It is very important and at the same time not particularly valuable. In other words, the appreciable difference between a running back on a rookie deal and a running back that signed an expensive second contract is really not that much. We will look at the running backs in camp and give you their PFF grades and yards from scrimmage either from college or the NFL.

PFF Scores of 80 or above— Perennial Pro Bowl player or College All-American

PFF Scores 70-79— A solid college or pro starter

PFF Scores 60-69— Somewhere between Rotational player and solid starter

PFF Scores Below 60— Rostered player or special teams performer

The Current Running Backs Room

Devin Singletary— 78.6 PFF, 786 snaps, 1,099 yards from scrimmage, 6 TD

Singletary is not a bell cow back, but he is finally in a system where he doesn’t have to be. It will be intriguing to find out how the coaching staff wants to break down the workload. If Singletary and Pierce split time 50/50 it could be an effective duo. Singletary might be slightly better as a receiver out of the backfield, but otherwise they are probably interchangeable.

Dameon Pierce— 78.9 PFF, 507 snaps, 1,104 yards from scrimmage, 5 TD

Pierce is probably the better runner of the two, but he showed late in the season that he probably isn’t a 20+ carry guy week in and week out. If they limit him to 10-15 carries per game and a few receptions thrown in he might last the season and ultimately be a better volume performer.

Dare Ogunbowale— 65.0 PFF, 184 snaps, 227 yards from scrimmage, 1 TD

Ogunbowale is proof positive that running backs are fungible. He was as good if not considerably better than Rex Burkhead for a fraction of the cost. He might slip onto the end of the roster because of his receiving skills out of the backfield, but the Houston Texans might be better off in the long run if he is not good enough. It’s nothing against him, but they can do better.

Mike Boone— 53.2 PFF, 126 snaps, 198 yards from scrimmage, 0 TD

This was one of the few moves this offseason that really didn’t make much sense. Sure, he was a decent third back in Denver, but you can find these guys late in the draft or even as undrafted free agents. He’s a camp body and unless he somehow demonstrates that he is a special teams phenom he really doesn’t fit.

Gerrid Doaks— No PFF, No Snaps, Practice squad player

He has been on both the Miami Dolphins and the Texans practice squads. He was on Lovie’s practice squad last season. He signed a futures contract, so it really isn’t a financial investment at all. He is a camp body that will be cannon fodder. You need guys like that on the 90 man roster. Maybe you don’t if you know what you are doing.

Xazavian Valladay (R)— 80.5 PFF, 649 snaps, 1,481 yards from scrimmage, 18 TD

If I were the general manager of an NFL team, I probably would sign three or four of these guys every year. The best one gets a spot on the roster. You need a third running back. It’s a grueling season, so one of your top two guys will get banged up and can’t go one week. Do you want a marginal guy or would you rather have someone that could develop into a stud? Arian Foster is an unrealistic bar to clear, but at least one or two of these guys make it on someone’s roster every year and contribute a ton.

The Final Verdict

I’d actually expect one more veteran to be added before training camp. Putting rosters together is like a jigsaw puzzle. You will carry four running backs. If one is a fullback then that turns into three running backs with a fourth likely on the practice squad. Do you commit three or four million to bringing in someone like Ezekiel Elliott? It’s an intriguing idea. Kareem Hunt and Jamaal Williams are also out there as of this writing. Would any of them be better than Valladay? It’s an intriguing question.