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Dameon Pierce and Devin Singletary - 2023 Fantasy Football Texans RB Outlooks

Dameon Pierce - Fantasy Football Rankings, Draft Sleepers, NFL Injury News

When the 2023 NFL season began, the Houston Texans were guaranteed to add additional running backs to their roster. They had to. They finished the year with Dare Ogunbowale, Royce Freeman, and Rex Burkhead operating behind rookie Dameon Pierce. Que the Kevin McCallister “Woof” gif, am I right? That addition ended up being former Buffalo Bills starter Devin Singletary, creating mixed feelings among fantasy managers.

Here are some of the previous Fantasy Football outlook articles covering some of the biggest NFL free agency moves this offseason:

On one hand, the Singletary signing meant it was highly unlikely the team would add premier talent to the running back room via the draft, which is good, but Singletary has been a solid veteran in his four seasons in the NFL. So, what will this backfield split look like, and how should fantasy managers value these two players? Let’s discuss and please be sure to use promo code "BOOM" for 10% off of any premium purchase.

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What Dameon Pierce and Devin Singletary Offer

We’ll begin with the incumbent starter, Dameon Pierce. Considering the situation he was walking into as a rookie, Pierce played just about as well as anyone could have expected.

Pierce showcased impressive numbers, averaging 16.9 carries (seventh-most among RBs) and 72.2 yards per game (eighth-most). He was an absolute handful for opposing defenders to bring down. He averaged 2.3 yards after contact per attempt, which was tied for the fourth-best, and it's that skillset that makes him an exciting young player.

Unfortunately, his rookie season was cut short due to an ankle injury, and he missed four games, finishing with 939 rushing yards. As successful as Pierce was rushing the football in his rookie season, Singletary has also been very effective in his own right. This fact often is overshadowed due to Buffalo's lack of rushing volume, causing his overall numbers to be pale compared to other starting running backs.

Player YAC/Attempt BrkTkl/Att True YPC Juke Rate Breakaway Run Rate
Yards Created Per Touch
D, Pierce (2022) 2.3 8.1 4.0 27.2% 4.1% 2.87
D, Singletary (Career) 2.2 13.1 4.4 27.6% 6.8% 2.54

The stats provided by PlayerProfiler show that while Piece was impressive as a rookie, Singletary has maintained similar averages across four seasons. In fact, Singletary has a higher true yard per carry average, a higher juke rate, and a higher breakaway run rate. While Singletary’s seasonal totals look lackluster, it’s important to remember the Bills were one of the most pass-heavy offenses over the past three years, so opportunities were somewhat limited, especially with Josh Allen’s mobility.

Despite Singletary’s effectiveness as a rusher, fantasy managers should still expect Pierce to operate as the primary ball carrier for the Texans in 2023. However, one area he struggled mightily in was pass protection.

If Pierce cannot improve that part of his game, it could limit his fantasy upside. Last year, the coaching staff may have been more tolerant of Pierce's growing pains, considering they had Davis Mills behind center. However, with the addition of C.J. Stroud, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft and the future of their franchise at QB, the coaching staff may demand higher performance standards from Pierce.

Player PFF Pass Blocking Grade Yards Per Reception YPRR TS %
D, Pierce (2022) 32.3 5.5 0.86 9.4%
D, Singletary (2022) 73.2 7.4 0.76 9.7%
D, Singletary (2021) 48.0 5.7 0.61 8.0%
D, Singletary (2020) 57.5 6.8 0.77 8.8%
D, Singletary (2019) 52.7 7.7 0.89 12.2%

The table above includes their pass-blocking grades referenced by PFF. While neither player has been effective as a pass-catcher, Singletary has recorded better pass-blocking grades in every season of his career than Pierce had as a rookie.

More importantly, Singletary was one of the higher-graded pass-blocking running backs last year, earning a 73.2 grade. Pierce’s grade paled in comparison, ranked 50th out of 57 running backs with at least 30 pass-blocking snaps. Singletary finished sixth.

According to PFF, Singletary was also tasked with 93 pass-blocking snaps, the third-most among RBs. The Bills had a great deal of trust in Singletary helping keep Allen clean and that same responsibility could be given to him in Houston with the selection of Stroud.


2023 Final Expectations

Since the Houston Texans have a brand new head coach and offensive coordinator, it becomes very difficult to envision what this offense might look like in year one.

While both newcomers, DeMeco Ryans and Bobby Slowik, are coming over from the San Francisco 49ers’ organization, Houston does not have the same level of defense as the 49ers', making it more difficult to assess what the volume in the Texans' offense may look like.

We can assume Slowik will want to run the ball as they did in San Francisco, but will Houston’s defense allow them to do that? That remains a question that won’t be answered this offseason, unfortunately.

Last year, the Texans finished with 398 carries, ranked 30th in the NFL. Of those 398, 332 went to the running backs, or roughly 84%. The previous coaching staff used Pierce as one of the biggest bell-cow running backs in the league last year, a utilization trend fantasy managers shouldn’t expect to see this year.

Player % of Team Snaps % of Team Carries % of Team RZ Carries
% of Team RB Targets
D, Pierce 66.6% (10th) 78.8% (2nd) 71.1% (4th) 33.0%
D, Singletary 65.7% (11th) 43.7% (28th) 46.1% (25th) 54.9%

Pierce and Singletary both played extremely high snap shares last season, so something will have to give in that regard. As far as Pierce’s percentage of the team and red zone carries, fantasy managers should expect that number to decrease, even if he continues to operate as the lead and primary rusher. Especially considering San Francisco's penchant for a running back by committee approach in recent seasons.

The Texans had 124 running back targets last year, but this number is expected to decrease with the addition of safety valve target Dalton Schultz. Another reason this is likely to drop is simply because Pierce and Singletary have been very poor pass-catchers out of the backfield. They haven't proven to be assets as pass-catchers and will need to prove to be more efficient in this regard if they are to earn more targets this season. That’s something Singletary has been unable to do in four seasons and Pierce has such a long way to go before even becoming average in this department. We’ll assume the RBs will have 105 targets for 2023, which is not a large decrease.

With the new coaching staff and the likelihood of defensive improvement, it’s reasonable to expect more rushing volume in 2023. We’ll be working off 435 rush attempts, which would’ve been 19th last year. If 84% of that goes to the running backs, as it did last season, we’d have 365 total attempts.

Below is a table of what the distribution might look like in Houston. This is assuming Pierce maintains the lion’s share of the rushing work at 60%, Singletary at 32%, and the other backups at 8%. Pierce was at 78% last year, but this is unrealistic considering the addition of Singletary.

For the targets, we’ll be using a 52% share for Singletary, 37% for Pierce, and 10% for the other backups. Singletary takes the lead here due to his pass-blocking. These numbers were also very close to their opportunity share last season. Pierce received 33% of the RB targets, and Singletary had 55%.

Player Carries Rushing Yards Targets Receptions Receiving Yards Total TDs Half-PPR PPG
D, Pierce 219 986 39 29 187 7 10.22
D, Singletary 117 527 55 41 276 4 7.34
Backups 29 119 11 8 48 1 1.57

Pierce’s 10.22 half-PPR PPG average above would’ve finished as the RB25 last year, which is around where fantasy managers should value him. If Singletary were to get hurt, Pierce would rise up to high-end RB2 status.

Singletary is best viewed as an RB4 who could be started in a desperation pinch in PPR leagues. He has solid contingency value if Pierce were to miss time. This would vault Singletary into RB2 territory.

Pierce is currently being drafted as the RB19 on Underdog with an ADP of 61.4, the front of round five. Pierce’s current price tag seems a bit high, and I’d pass on him at his current cost.

He was RB21 from Weeks 1-14, prior to his injury and that was with a snap share that ranked 10th among running backs and getting the second-highest percentage of his team’s carries. Both of those numbers are going down this year with the addition of Singletary, which is going to make it very difficult for him to pay off at his current RB19 price tag.

However, there is upside here if Pierce is able to secure a bigger piece of the receiving workload, which is possible and shouldn’t be entirely ruled out. If that happens, Pierce could make good on his current RB19 price tag. This shouldn’t be the expectation and banking on this outcome happening certainly comes with some risks.

Singletary is currently being drafted as the RB51 with an ADP of 164.4, the back half of round 13. There’s no doubt that Singletary presents much more value than Pierce right now, making him the better acquisition cost wise, but he comes with a significantly lower floor and without a Pierce injury will not be an impact player.

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