HOUSTON -- Running back will be a need for the Houston Texans in 2022. One name won't able to change the outlook right away, but it does mend the issue on paper.
In the latest two-round mock draft by The Athletic's Dane Brugler, the Texans use the third overall pick on Oregon edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux. With the 37th pick, Houston looks to bolster its run game with the addition of Michigan State running back Kenneth Walker III.
Walker, the reigning Doak Walker winner of 2021, became a staple under coach Mel Tucker this past season. Leading the Spartans to a 10-2 regular season, Walker averaged 6.2 yards per carry on the way to rushing for a career-best 1,636 yards and 19 total touchdowns.
One of the biggest strengths for Walker are his hands. Last season, he recorded just one fumble on 268 carries. Another key to his overall game is the ability to make defenders miss at the line of scrimmage. According to Pro Football Focus, Walker forced 77 missed tackles and tallied 978 rushing yards after contact, both first among all FBS players.
Houston finished last in rushing last season under the direction of David Culley and offensive coordinator Tim Kelly. Rex Burkhead, who signed just before the start of training camp, led the way with 427 rushing yards and three touchdowns, averaging 3.7 yards per carry.
The Texans averaged a league-low 83.6 yards per attempt last season on the ground. Burkhead is set to return in 2022, but David Johnson is an impending free agent. Both Mark Ingram and Philip Lindsay, who rushed for at least 100 yards, were traded or waived during the regular season.
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Houston will also be changing its offensive personnel following the firings of Culley and Kelly. The Texans are expected to consider pass-game coordinator and quarterbacks coach Pep Hamilton for their offensive coordinator opening regardless of who is named the next head coach.
The Texans will also have to decide on ways to fix their offensive line after a down year. Marcus Cannon, Tytus Howard and Laremy Tunsil are all under contract next season, but Cannon could be viewed as a cap casualty after only playing in four games.
Tunsil, who is signed through the 2023 season, could be traded this offseason for the right price. Last season, the former Dolphins standout played in just five games before being placed on the injured reserve with a thumb injury.
Howard, who played four different positions for Houston in 2021, could be entering the final year of his rookie deal should the Texans elect to not pick up his fifth-year option. A tackle at Alabama State, Howard began his career at right tackle, but was viewed by the staff last season better as a guard.
Drafting Walker is a start for the Texans if they truly are hopeful to invest in their run game. It can't be the only added this offseason if the team expects stronger numbers in 2022.