Dameon Pierce was selected for the initial rotation of the 2022 Tracking Translation series, and it seems he is making an early impact. You may not know how I see Pierce if you have not read the RB Tracking Translation article. Pierce has excellent upside as a runner, though his landing spot suppresses it a bit. Pierce has some NFL tape and has already begun to flash. Let’s look at what he has done.
What Does Translation Look Like
In the article linked above, we identified a few things we must see to believe he is adjusting to the NFL well. Some of these items include:
- Must earn the featured role
- Must see the same patience, burst, and competitive toughness he displayed at Florida
- Must earn a significant pass-catching role
- Translation of his pass-protection skillset
He did put some of these things on tape, but what does it mean in the context of preseason?
Preseason Week 1 Vs. Saints
Decisiveness and Sharp Cuts
This play you have probably seen. Pierce earns 20 yards on his first carry displaying so many things we saw at Florida. We see good use of his pads to widen the defensive tackle to create space. On top of the high-speed mental processing exhibited, we see a nice high-speed, ~110-degree cut upfield. What may go overlooked is the decisiveness that is a theme through all of these carries.
In this play, Pierce displays a wicked two-stage cutback where he utilizes his hand to maintain balance. We should take away from this in addition to a very good change of direction, and pacing. This window isn’t open if the runner does not pace well. Being able to take advantage of developing lanes is predicated on good pacing. It is encouraging to see multiple aspects come together at NFL speed. It is another indicator of sound mental processing and play speed.
Patience and Self-Awareness
The themes of vision and pacing continue. So far, in this extremely small sample size, he has not been out of position to exploit at developing gap. Again this takes patience, and seeing this kind of patience this early against NFL speed is promising.
One of my favorite aspects of any runner is their knowledge of self. A running back that can quickly assess their advantages/disadvantages within the context of their ability is critical. His understanding of his burst to overcome the leverage of the defensive end piques interest. Something that may go unmentioned is that the play is designed to the boundary instead of the field. His burst becomes much more important in this scenario with less field to exploit. He continues to build on this with that same balance and the competitive toughness to gain those extra yards.
Preseason Week 2 Vs. Rams
No snaps. Not one single snap in the second preseason game. Who played instead?
- Dare Ogunbowale – 27 total snaps
- Royce Freeman – 26 total snaps
- Rex Burkhead – 15 total snaps
- Marlon Mack – 14 total snaps
Then there is this:
Dameon Pierce didn’t play in preseason Week 2, likely because he’s already earned No. 1 job. https://t.co/WaWvRIgvle— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) August 20, 2022
It’s pretty easy to come to the same conclusion. Assuming Pierce is the RB1, then he has checked off another box we needed to confirm his translation. Given the underwhelming performances from Mack, Freeman, and Burkhead, it would be a surprise if Pierce didn’t start.
An encouraging early showing, an absence in the second preseason game, and a lack of threat from the remaining running backs all make a promising future for Pierce. Maybe your interest is piqued given these indicators. Let’s take a peek at a couple of trades from DynastyGM’s Trade Browser:
The value is way off (3424 value difference), but the fact that this has happened in a league is intriguing. There is obviously some roster and GM context we don’t have. I imagine the Waddle manager was extremely desperate for RBs and loaded at receiver. If you have Pierce and can get Waddle straight up, SMASH ACCEPT! I don’t care how much I like Pierce or how desperate my RB situation will be after the transaction; Waddle is a no-brainer acquisition at this price.
Buying Pierce with a future first is much more reasonable in my mind. This trade occurred about three days prior to the second preseason game, but now I imagine the additional second-round pick goes away.
My pre-draft opinion on Pierce and what we have seen so far gives me comfort in spending that type of capital. Is that acquisition risk-free? By no means. While we generally want RBs on good offenses, I would buy Pierce for a first. We do not know what this offense will look like in real games, and Houston was bottom of the barrel in 2021 offensive production. If Houston is chasing points all day, then Pierce could often be scripted out of games. Not a great position to be in as a fantasy GM.
Still, the indicators of translation are there, albeit unconfirmed. If Pierce is who we think he is, his price will be higher than a first by the time we are comfortable with the translation. If we buy for a first now and the projection is correct, then it will be worth it. Translation of his skillset should result in better game scripts for the Texans and thus more opportunities for Pierce.
We will resume our evaluation of Pierce’s transition in week one when the real bullets start to fly. It will probably be easier for analytics people to be more patient with making a move. For those who have closely watched Pierce’s college film, it will be tough to stave off drooling over what he has shown. Whatever your lean (analytics or film), consider it all and make the best decision you can.
Please keep checking in here or following me on Twitter @FFB_Vern to see more of the things catching my eye. We will continue tracking the translation of these rookies, but you should equip yourself further by becoming part of the #NerdHerd and accessing the DynastyGM, Prospect Film Room, and other tools!