Do the Texans have one of the NFL's top-5 backs in Dameon Pierce

Houston Texans
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Houston Texans
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The talent is there with Pierce.

Honestly, I was shocked and elated that the former Florida Gator fell to the Texans in the fourth round of the 2022 NFL draft. Pierce was hardly utilized at Florida, mustering only 172 snaps in his final season. But, boy, oh boy, did he take advantage of those snaps, as he finished the season with 574 yards on the ground to go with 13 touchdowns. He did all of this on only 100 carries.

Of every running back in the country, Pierce ranked first overall by PFF as a runner, with a grade of 93.5. Of his 574 yards, 365 came after contact and was an overall wrecking ball. Again, I have no clue why he was only given 100 touches, but I am grateful that his lack of experience led to him falling in the draft.

Pierce did many of the same things as a professional but could have been better. After contact, he still earned most of his rushing yards, 722 out of 939, but fell short in scoring and overall run grade. His final run grade by PFF was 84.8, the 15th-highest grade. By Pro Football Focus' standards, Pierce was a middle-of-the-pack running back.

Comparing him to the elite running backs in the league.

When you adjust for players with 200 carries or more, Pierce moves up to the eighth-best back in the league. Based on the eye test, the eighth best is where I would argue he falls as well. Pierce has yet to be the all-around superstar running back like Derrick Henry, Christian McCaffery, Dalvin Cook, Nick Chubb, Aaron Jones, Tony Pollard, or Saquan Barkley, the seven backs ahead of him. Could he become that? Yes.

Their ability to force missed tackles and get yards after contact makes those running backs elite. While Pierce's injury cost him valuable playing time, we can use his averages to compare best. Amongst those elite running backs, Pierce ranked fifth in average yards after contact at 3.28 yards. He also forced a whopping 62 missed tackles, good for fourth, despite playing five fewer games than the next guy. The highlight of his chase for contact has to be the 'Good Morning Football's' angriest run of the year.

Austin Gayle posted a graphic on Twitter showing Pierce's dominance, names in red ranked inside the 80th percentile in both forced missed tackles per carry & yards after contact per attempt (via PFF):

Lastly, elite running backs can break away and score from anywhere on the football field. PFF has a stat called the breakaway percentage, which measures the percentage of times the running back had a carry that was rushing yardage on designed attempts for more than 15 yards. Pierce ranked tenth here, with 29.6% of his designed rushes hitting that mark. That is a higher percentage than Cook, Henry, Austin Ekeler, Jones, and Jacobs.