Dameon Pierce fantasy outlook and projection for 2022

    What is Dameon Pierce's fantasy outlook and projection for 2022, and should you look to draft him at his current ADP?

    Houston Texans running back Dameon Pierce hopes to become the star of a loaded backfield in 2022. Should you expect Pierce to breakout in 2022 despite veteran competition? What is Pierce’s fantasy football outlook for 2022 fantasy managers, and what’s his current ADP in fantasy drafts?

    Update: Marlon Mack has been cut by the Houston Texans on Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2022.

    Dameon Pierce fantasy outlook for 2022

    There’s nothing worse than falling in love with a prospect throughout the NFL draft cycle only to see them land in what seems like a desolate situation. The senior rusher from Florida had little tread on his tires despite being talented. He accumulated just 329 rushes in four years and produced 1,806 yards and 23 touchdowns.

    Pierce’s breakout season in 2021 featured a 5.7 yards-per-carry average and 19 receptions for 216 yards and three scores as a receiver. His efficiency was through the roof for a 5-foot-9, 218-pounder, leading the nation in positive rush rate. The one-cut runner also showed off great contact balance as he finished fourth in broken tackles per 100 touches.

    He’s far from a back that jumped off the screen for his explosive open-field speed or cuts. Instead, Pierce is a natural grinder who fights with tremendous effort, takes advantage of angles when oncoming defenders attempt to bring him down, and offers upside as a pass catcher. It’s easy to see a pathway where Pierce plays a long time in the NFL, even if it’s as a backup.

    I believe there’s a higher upside for Pierce than just a backup. His violent running style can be a nightmare for nickel and dime defenses. He’ll be tough to stop in the open field for smaller tacklers.

    Houston’s rushing woes last season

    His situation in Houston certainly complicates his fantasy output in 2022, though. The Texans ranked dead last in rushing yards and yards per carry in 2021 and were second-worst in rushing touchdowns. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor finished fourth in rushing yards despite playing in six games and carrying the ball 19 times.

    Some of this lack of success can almost certainly be attributed to the fact Houston gave 77% of their RB carries to players 30 years and older. Also, the Texans’ offensive line was ravaged by injuries as star left tackle Laremy Tunsil missed 12 games and center Justin Britt and right tackle Tytus Howard both were out six contests. Pair those limitations with a rookie quarterback starting 13 games, and it’s fair to wonder if any back could find success.

    Some of these things will change. Davis Mills is the undisputed starting quarterback this year and presumably has a healthy, improved set of blockers in front of him. Tunsil is back, and Houston added first-round left guard Kenyon Green and right guard A.J. Cann.

    New head coach Lovie Smith promoted 2021 passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach Pep Hamilton to offensive coordinator. Hamilton passed the ball more than 60% of the time the last time he was an offensive coordinator, back in 2013-2015, but he also had Andrew Luck. It’s possible more balance is coming to protect Mills, and a necessity to shorten games to keep Houston competitive.

    How the Texans depth chart impacts Dameon Pierce’s fantasy projection for the season

    While Pierce may be Houston’s best back, he will only be the most talented one if Marlon Mack is not 100% healthy after tearing his Achilles tendon in 2019. Mack produced 127 yards in 32 carries over the last two years. Rolling the dice on Mack’s health was a shrewd move for the Texans since they need any star power they can unearth.

    If Mack is back to the 1,000-yard rusher we saw in 2019, Pierce’s role could be limited to short-yardage and goal-line opportunities. Mack was that good. But it’s been a long time since we saw that player, and the 26-year-old could prove to be unplayable within the first month of the season if his explosiveness hasn’t returned.

    The other veteran worth considering in the Texans’ backfield is Rex Burkhead. Houston’s strange infatuation with veterans with no upside is baffling, and Burkhead is atop the list of questionable signings. The 32-year-old averaged only 3.5 yards per carry last season and will bite into Pierce’s snaps as a pass catcher since that’s Burkhead’s specialty.

    The best-case scenario for Pierce is he’s able to take Mack’s snaps and keep Burkhead as a rotational third-down presence. Getting a full grip on the job may take half a season or an injury to Mack.

    By taking Pierce, you’re hoping his touchdowns will make up for the lack of consistent touches and volume of yards. He’s best as a matchup-dependent Flex play in deeper leagues. His 2022 workload may be almost evenly distributed with less talented but more trusted backs in Mack and Burkhead.

    Pierce’s ADP for 2022

    Pierce is going to be a player whose ADP could be a little all over the place in drafts this year. Just looking at Fantasy Pros consensus ADP, you can see that already. He is as high as 77 on RTSports and as low as 139 on Fantrax. That differential is due to recent reports that Pierce impressed in Week 1 of the preseason and was then rested for Week 2, hinting he may have the lead back job sewn up.

    Overall, Pierce’s consensus ADP is around 130th as the RB42. In PFN’s consensus 2022 PPR fantasy rankings, he is 36th at RB as the 83rd player overall. Therefore, our analysts view Pierce as a solid investment, even if there are still enough risks to keep him as a low-end RB3.

    With the Texans likely to be trialing a lot in 2022, we could see weeks where the passing game dominates and Pierce struggles to produce for fantasy managers. However, getting a potential starting RB in round six or below is hard to pass up. It won’t all be smooth sailing, but if you are looking to bolster your RB options, Pierce could be a very valuable asset.

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