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Dameon Pierce - NFL Rookie Profile - Fantasy Football Running Back Outlook

Interest in this year’s rookie class erupted early in the offseason and rose to an enormous level prior to the NFL Draft. Even though all uncertainty regarding the destinations for these newcomers has been eviscerated, the enthusiasm for first-year players has remained robust as they participate in training camps. This has shifted the focus surrounding the 2022 class toward updating the outlooks for these newcomers as they compete for roles in their new environments.

This includes Dameon Pierce who became the seventh running back to be selected during the NFL Draft. His collegiate stats failed to match the eye-opening numbers that were generated by the most prolific members of his class. However, Pierce performs with toughness and purpose, and his strengths as a runner have positioned him to operate effectively at the NFL level.

Pierce also became the beneficiary of a favorable landing spot, as he surfaced in a Houston backfield that previously did not contain an unquestioned lead back. His prospects of capitalizing on his opportunity were originally examined in July. Now, his encouraging performances during training camp and the preseason have fueled this update, as the 5’10”/215-pound Pierce appears primed to seize a significant role for the Texans, and become an immediate contributor for fantasy managers.

 

Dameon Pierce NFL Rookie Profile

  • Team: Houston Texans
  • College: Florida
  • Height/Weight/Age:  5’ 10”/215/22 (2/19/2000) 
  • NFL Draft: Round: 4/Pick: 107

 

Dameon Pierce Built An Impressive High School Career  

Pierce was a starter during all four of his seasons at Bainbridge High School (Georgia) while accumulating 942 carries during that span. He also assembled 6,779 yards on the ground and averaged 147.4 per game/7.2 per attempt during his 46 games with the Bearcats.

5,869 of those yards were produced during his last three years, including 2,123 (193 per game) as a senior in 2017. Pierce also accrued 92 rushing touchdowns, while collecting 45 receptions, and generating 571 receiving yards during his high school career. He also emerged as the eighth-ranked running back among all members of his 2018 class, before signing a letter of intent with Florida in December 2017.

 

Dameon Pierce Was Underutilized At Florida 

Pierre ultimately accumulated 1,806 rushing yards (37.6 per game) and 23 touchdowns on 329 attempts (6.9 per game) during his tenure with the Gators. He finished third on the team in yardage as a freshman (424/38.5 per game) despite being limited to 69 carries (6.1 per attempt), as he operated in a backfield that included Lamical Perine and Jordan Scarlett. Pierce finished second behind Perine in yardage during 2019 (305/25.4 per game) while being relegated to just 54 attempts (4.5 per game).

Year Attempts Att/Gm  Yards Yards/Gm  Yards/Att TD
2018 69 6.3 424 38.5 6.1 2
2019 54 4.5 305 25.4 5.6 4
2020 106 8.8 503 41.9 4.7 4
2021 100 7.7 574 44.2 5.7 13
Career 329 6.9 1806 37.6 5.5 23

Pierce’s workload and output increased during 2020, as he was elevated into a starting role during 10 of Florida’s 12 contests. He also led the Gators in carries (106/8.8, per game) and yardage (503/41.9 per game).

He was second on the team in attempts (100/7.7 per game) and yardage (574/44.2 per game/5.7 per attempt) during 2021, while functioning with a restricted workload that was borderline incomprehensible. It is noteworthy that he averaged just 6.8 attempts per game during Florida’s first 11 matchups, before averaging 12.5 per game during the Gators‘ final two games - following the departure of former head coach Dan Mullen. Pierce also paced the team with a career-high 13 touchdowns in 2021, while scoring in nine different matchups.

 

Dameon Pierce Boosted His Stock At The Senior Bowl

Enthusiasm for Pierce’s prospects of success at the NFL level increased following his participation in the Senior Bowl, as he gained notoriety through his impressive performances in practice during the week. Pierce demonstrated power, vision, and burst as a runner, delivered promising results as a receiver, and also displayed his proficiency as a pass blocker leading up to the game. Pierce surfaced as one of the biggest winners among Senior Bowl participants, and his efforts fueled an unquestioned rise in his draft stock.

Pierce was also invited to the NFL Combine and joined 35 other backs at the four-day event. His strength was evident once again when he tied for third among all backs in the bench press (21). The results of his 40-yard dash were less impressive (4.59), although he tied for seventh in the vertical jump (34.5") and registered 9'11" in the broad jump.

 

Dameon Pierce Will Thrive With An Expanded Workload

Pierce did not secure an every-down role with the Gators, which suppressed his usage and output as a rusher and diminished his involvement as a receiver. It was understandable if the limitations of his role in Florida's backfield rotation for initially created apprehension regarding his ability to become a viable resource for your rosters. However, any concern should be offset by Pierce’s uncongested path toward a favorable workload, and his promising performances during the month of August.

Pierce possesses the size to function as an effective early-down and goal-line back and has the ability to generate yardage as an inside runner. His capabilities as a one-cut runner include his vision and decisiveness, which can help him navigate through holes that emerge when he exploits opposing defenses. Pierce also has the potential to accumulate yards after contact and broke 39 tackles during 2021, according to PFF.

Pierce can also remain on the field in passing situations, which is partially a byproduct of his capabilities as a pass-blocker. His prospects of earning a role as a receiver should not be automatically disregarded, strictly because he was relegated to the modest involvement as a pass-catcher at Florida (45 receptions/422 yards).

 

Dameon Pierce’s Clear Path To A Sizable Role

Pierce has been infused into an unimposing depth chart, which leaves an unencumbered lane for him to seize a sizable workload this season. It also places him in a position to retain a significant role with the Texans beyond 2022.

He has joined a backfield that has been transformed during the offseason. Houston had entered the 2021 regular season with an amalgamation of backs that was spearheaded by veterans Mark Ingram II, David Johnson, Phillip Lindsay, and Rex Burkhead. Ingram led the Texans in carries (86/14.3 per game) and rushing yardage (285/47.5 per game) from Weeks 1-6. However, he was jettisoned to New Orleans in exchange for a seventh-round pick in late October.

Burkhead somewhat shockingly emerged as the team leader in attempts (115) and rushing yardage (398) during the Texans’ final eight regular-season matchups, while averaging 14.5 carries and 54.5 yards on the ground from Weeks 10-16.

It is unsurprising that the dearth of talent throughout Houston’s offensive unit destined the Texans to dismal rankings in numerous offensive categories last season. The Texans’ league-worst 278.1 yards per game average was dead last in total offense, while Houston was also 32nd in rushing yardage (83.6 per game) and yards per attempt (3.4). The Texans also finished 31st in rushing first downs per game (4.5), while the team also ranked 31st with just 77 rushing first downs during the season.

Category  Average  Ranking 
Total Offense 278.1 Per Game 32
Rushing Offense 83.6 Per Game 32
Yards/Attempt 3.4 Per Attempt 32
First Downs 4.5 Per-Game 31

The Texans also trailed all other franchises in Football Outsiders’ ratings for team rush DVOA (Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average), while Burkhead’s ranking of just 42nd in DVOA was the highest among all Houston running backs.

 

Dameon Pierce's Competition For Touches

Running Back Attempts Att/Gm Yards Yards/Gm TDs
Rex Burkhead 122 7.6 427 26.7 3
Mark Ingram II 92 13.1 294 42 1
David Johnson 67 5.2 228 17.5 0
Phillip Lindsay 50 5 130 13 1
Royce Freeman 35 5 92 13.1 0

Burkhead’s team-high 427 rushing yards from Weeks 1-18 placed him behind 51 other backs, as he averaged only 3.5 yards per attempt and 26.7 yards per game. He now joins former Colt Marlon Mack as Pierce’s primary competition for touches, as Lindsay has migrated to Indianapolis, and Johnson remains a free agent.

Mack was the most notable addition to the backfield during the offseason, and he will attempt to resuscitate his career after signing a one-year contract in April. Mack finished at RB20 during 2019 and was also ninth overall in attempts (247/17.6 per game) and 10th in rushing yardage (1,091/78 per game) during that career-best season. However, a torn Achilles limited him to just one contest in 2020, while he only manufactured 101 yards on 28 carries during a 2021 season that was laden with healthy scratches.

Mack could conceivably accrue touches at the onset of the season, but Pierce should quickly surpass him on the depth chart - if that has not already transpired.

Pierce has also earned the trust of Houston’s coaching staff, which was reshaped during the offseason. This includes the insertion of Lovie Smith as head coach along with Pep Hamilton as the Texans’ offensive coordinator. Hamilton will begin his 14th year of coaching in the NFL, which includes three seasons as the offensive coordinator for Indianapolis (2013-2015).

 

Dameon Pierce’s Outlook

Pierce’s effectiveness as a one-cut runner should enable him to generate yardage, while his ability to run with a physical presence should blend favorably with his vision and balance toward launching him into a consistent role as a rookie. He is also the beneficiary of an outstanding opportunity to confiscate an extensive workload, as the presence of Mack and 32-year Burkhead will not prevent Pierce from performing with the highest percentage of carries within the backfield.

His promising preseason was launched during Houston’s opener when he generated 49 yards on just five attempts (9.8 per attempt). He also became PFF’s highest-graded running back as the result of his effort.

This compelled Smith to rest him during Houston’s second preseason outing while deploying the team’s veteran backs versus the Rams.

Pierce is also fully capable of commandeering the majority of carries near the goal line while catapulting atop a backfield that did not elicit success in the red zone during 2021. The Texans ranked 27th in red zone scoring percentage (51.4%), while Burkhead led the backfield with only 17 carries, 29 yards, and two touchdowns (32.1%) inside the 20.

Pierce’s ADP was located in Round 12 (136/RB47) in the majority of redraft leagues when the previous profile was written. Now, interest from fantasy managers has surged significantly, as his draft position resides in Round 8 (88/RB31).

However, that should not diminish your interest in targeting him, as he has reached the threshold of seizing a sizable weekly touch total. His outlook improves even further in 2023, which also makes him a viable target in dynasty startups.

 



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