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2011 NFL Draft Thread: Looking Beyond Round One For Potential Texans

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As promised last Friday, I'm back to take a look at some non-first round prospects that would look good in a Houston Texans uniform. Honestly, I look more forward to breaking down these guys than the first rounders because I am the type of fan who will pour over all sorts of information and sit through every single pick from No. 1 to No. 255 in April.

A lot of attention is, rightfully, put on the first round, but as I sort of got at in the Texans Draft Rewinds: the good teams hit on and develop their mid-round and late round picks - something Houston has to improve on. While I'm cheering to select player A or B on day one, I'm really hoping that player O or P are available in the second or third because I've seen them play on Saturdays, studied their tapes, and really think that they're right on track to make something of their pro opportunity.

Last year, I had my draft junkie eyes on WR Blair White, CB Alterraun Verner, and DT Geno Atkins (along with the injured RB Montario Hardesty and primarily spent times on special teams coverage unit OLB Dekoda Watson) - all three had solid-to-good seasons and made a positive impact for their teams. I only hope this year's non first round gems pan out with similar success - preferably in deep steel blue. 

Stanford NT Sione Fua
Draft Stock: Projected anywhere from the 2nd to 4th rounds. 
Why I Love Him: First off, Fua brings in a background that Houston executives like: he comes from a schematic fit (3-4 system at Stanford) and is a smart kid with good character (he did go to Stanford University after all).

Moving beyond that, Fua is Incredible Hulk strong. Whether it was in the season or during the Senior Bowl, Fua was able to get off the ball and hold the point of attack. On that first drive during the Senior Bowl, Fua also showed some gap-shooting ability to disrupt run plays in the backfield. Fua was directly responsible for stopping the opposing team's drive in the red zone with tackles in the backfield and forcing the quarterback out of his pocket. Smaller, strong, and with a quick burst, Sione Fua reminds me an awful lot of Jay Ratliff, and he worked well for new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips in his previous stint in Dallas.

Of all NT prospects, Fua has long been a favorite of mine. I certainly would love to see him learning (he does need work on keeping a low pad level and making better use of his hands) behind a Pat Williams or Shaun Rogers at nose and next to Earl Mitchell and Amobi Okoye when Houston runs a 4-man front. For those wanting to see tape, click here for a tape that showcases both positives and negatives for Fua.

Prospect: Michigan State OLB/ILB Greg Jones
Draft Stock: 2nd to 3rd rounds.
Why I Love Him: Jones is a playmaker - plain and simple. At Michigan State, all Jones did was make the play that needed to be made. Watching him in 2010, not only was he the unquestioned leader of the Spartans - a trait Houston loves - but he can cover (four career interceptions and ten passes defensed), rush the passer (9 sacks in 2009), and has great speed to disrupt in the backfield (averaging nearly 12 tackles for a loss per season).

He played inside and outside at Michigan State, but his smaller size (6-0, 240 at the Senior Bowl) has some thinking he's more a 4-3 weakside linebacker only. I think he's talented enough to be able to play in the 3-4 but could use some work on shedding blocks and being a bit more aggressive. Here's some footage (focuses more on Iowa's offense but Jones does make some plays in the footage) for Jones. If he added a bit more bulk to fill out his frame, I'm sure Wade would be able to find a spot for him inside or outside.

Prospect: Auburn OT Lee Ziemba
Draft Stock: 5th to 7th rounds
Why I Love Him: He's another scheme fit (Auburn's zone is one reason why Ben Tate was drafted after all), but he's also one of those guys who was knocked down for injury concerns. He stayed healthy this season and was a part of that championship Auburn team. Ziemba's biggest problem, as I watched live because there's no YouTube tape of him, is his footwork and flexibility. Both things can be improved, but I like Ziemba's strength and athleticism to help him overcome his shortcomings. I think he’d be a smart choice to be developed behind Eric Winston and Duane Brown if Rashad Butler wasn't re-signed. 

Prospect: Oregon ILB Casey Matthews
Draft Stock: 4th to 5th rounds
Why I Love Him: He's a Matthews so you know he'll work hard, allow coaches to coach him up, and has a non-stop motor.

Unlike his talented older brother Clay, Casey is a bit smaller (makes him easier to block), a bit less athletic/explosive, and prone to misdirection. Still, Casey could be an effective 3-4 inside linebacker if he bulked up a little bit and found the right situation. Learning from DeMeco Ryans and Brian Cushing may be just what the doctor ordered for Matthews

Prospect: Idaho QB Nathan Enderle
Draft Stock: 5th to 7th rounds
Why I Love Him: I initially wanted to put Colin Kapernick in my QB to Watch position, but he’s played himself way up the draft board to a very high 2nd round pick. Delaware QB Pat Devlin’s stock has taken a hit to the point where he’s more thought of as a game-managing back-up. TCU’s Andy Dalton and Iowa’s Ricky Stanzi are nice, but I wanted to dig a bit deeper into the late-round QBs to find someone not so widely known. What I found was Mr. Enderle's big arm. This video will show him off a bit, but he can make a lot of throws and has some surprising athleticism for a big 6’5’’ 240 pound QB. For a Houston team that loves the bootleg, Enderle's arm doesn't seem to lose strength on the move.

A little sloppy in his footwork, could be more consistent with his ball placement, but these are things that can be polished as he studies behind Matt Schaub. He certainly has the arm and size to be successful in the NFL if he works hard and gets coached up. While I would like to see more on Enderle, I’ve seen enough to certainly pique my interest in him since the back-up options behind Matt Schaub are not inspiring.

These are the non-first rounders I’ve locked in on early, Texans fans. Are there any late rounders standing out to you that deserve a look? Are there any thoughts on some of these guys mentioned?

Images by eflon used in background images under a Creative Commons license. Thank you.