The Houston Texans had about a dozen needs going into this year's draft, including offensive guard. With the first pick in the second round, the Texans filled that need with Xavier Su'a-Filo from UCLA.
Over the last four seasons, Wade Smith was the Texans' starter at left guard, but they decided to let him walk this offseason. Smith made the Pro Bowl in 2012, but at age 33 he was starting to decline and it was time to move on.
If the Texans hadn't drafted Su'a-Filo, they likely would have had to start Ben Jones at left guard next season. Jones was the Texans' fourth-round choice in 2012 but was drafted as a center and is not a good fit at guard. He just doesn't have the size or strength to push around bigger defensive tackles. Su'a-Filo fits a big need for the Texans.
Lance Zierlein of The Sideline View had Su'a-Filo ranked as the second-best offensive guard in the draft and thinks he has good scheme versatility with plus power and foot movement:
Su'a-Filo is one of the most complete guards in this draft with good foot quickness, plus lateral movement, power and an ability to play in any scheme. Su'a-Filo rarely oversets in pass protection and is able to redirect when players get to his edge. I have some concerns about lack of length as I believe there will be NFL interior linemen who are able to neutralize his power by getting into his chest quickly with their hands.
He really jumps off the field at you when asked to make 2nd level blocks since he is able to get up on LBs quickly, break down and get guys blocked. Even more impressive is that he shows the foot quickness and timing necessary to be a plus zone blocker which is rare for such a powerful player.
GREAT pick with Su'a-Filo. My top rated guard on the board. He's powerful, mean and has very good feet.— Lance Zierlein (@LanceZierlein) May 9, 2014
Rob Rang and Dane Brugler of CBS Sports both had Su'a-Filo going in the first round of their mock drafts. He was also the second-ranked offensive guard on their prospect board and their scouts believe he has the potential to be an impact player in the running game:
As a veteran of 40 career starts, Su'a is the most pro-ready player on UCLA's talented offensive line. He is powerfully-built to handle bull rushes but has lateral agility and balance as a pass blocker. His mad work ethic was obvious early in life when he became an Eagle Scout and he has already completed his two-year Mormon missionary work.
Strong upper body with a well-proportioned frame. Nimble enough to get to the second level and looks natural pulling. Smooth body control and flexible hips to seal. Natural bend, balance and base with a strong anchor to generate power in the run game, can squat an elephant. Good anticipation and engages well at the point of attack.
Su'a-Filo will be the Texans' starter at left guard the moment he signs his rookie contract. Until the Texans take the field it will be hard to say for sure exactly what scheme they will run, but according to many, including Zierlein, Xavier Su'a-Filo will fit any scheme they decide to use. The Texans and their fans should expect him to be their starting left guard for the next five years or more.
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