Houston Texans: Surprising undrafted rookie free agent could be next Austin Ekeler

Houston Texans
Houston Texans / Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Texans hopefully improved their poor 2022 running game with a veteran running back, Devin Singletary, and significant upgrades along the offensive line. But there is also one name that's going unmentioned and that is a hidden undrafted free-agent gem.

The Texans came into the offseason faced with the fact that they needed to provide sophomore running back Dameon Pierce with help. Pierce exceeded expectations as a rookie, as he rushed for 939 yards, four touchdowns, and a 4.3 yards per carry average.

Even with these great numbers, the Texans were 31st in rushing yards (1,476), yards per carry (3.7), and rushing touchdowns (7). The Texans brought in former Bills running back Devin Singletary who I believe will have a breakout season with the Texans. While also adding former Arizona State star running back Xazavian Valladay after he went undrafted in this year's draft.

Xazavian Valladay will be the Austin Ekeler of the Houston Texans

Xazavian Valladay sits at six-foot and 198 pounds, which compared to Chargers starting running back Austin Ekeler, is only two inches taller and two pounds heavier than the star running back from Western Colorado. One big thing both players shared is both were snubbed in the NFL Draft Combine and ended up impressing scouts at their respective pro days.

When you compare the college stats between Austin Ekeler and Valladay, they are similar. Both rushed for over 1,000 yards in three seasons, but the only difference is Valladay didn't put up 400-yard receiving seasons; however, he still put up a consistent 250 yards. They posted around a similar 4,000 career yards (4,466 vs. 4,181). Now one big thing that really stands out between the two is Valladay averaged a consistent 5.5 yards per carry while Ekeler exploded for numbers of 5.8, 7.2, and 6.4 in his time at Western Colorado.

Valladay started his collegiate career at the University of Wyoming where he had three solid years there rushing for 3,274 yards, 5.2 yards per carry, nineteen touchdowns, and added 584 receiving yards, 11.5 yards per reception, and two receiving touchdowns. In his sophomore season, he led the Mountain West in rushing yards with 1,265, which earned him first-team all-conference honors.

According to reports, he ran a 4.43 40-yard dash which is .04 seconds faster than Ekeler, while adding a 40-inch vertical at his pro day. Scouts rave about his speed and his excellent acceleration ability through gaps. Valladay brings speed and athleticism, and he isn't afraid to fight for yards. He excels in outside zone formations and schemes that provide him with a lot of open-field ability.

Do you think he will crack the roster and surprise many fans and teams? You can join the conversation on our Toro Times Facebook page.

More Houston Texans stories from Toro Times