NFL Draft 2011: Will Tar Heel QB T.J. Yates Ever Start for Houston Texans?

Cliff PotterCorrespondent IMay 5, 2011

Yates is a winner, who should succeed at the next level.
Yates is a winner, who should succeed at the next level.Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Over the course of the last few weeks, few thought that T.J. Yates—the man who almost single-handedly kept the UNC Tar Heels afloat during this past season—would be drafted in the NFL's 2011 draft.

They did not factor in two very important ingredients. T.J. Yates' success on the field, which may have led some to give him one of the highest intangible ratings of any quarterback taken in years. And the fact that Yates played under a similar offensive system at UNC and is very similar to Houston starter Matt Schaub, who has been injured fairly frequently.

With UNC rocked by scandal, without a number of starters—including several that were among the nine drafted by the NFL, who were lost for at least part of the season—and with the pressure to score as much as possible because of a suspect defense that lost many players to suspension, Yates was able to craft eight wins. This includes a win over Tennessee in a bowl game.

In short, Yates was incredible in the face of the greatest adversity any college quarterback faced this year and, perhaps, any other year.

Yates is a winner.

His small-town high school play eventually put him on scholarship with the UNC Tar Heels.

His play at UNC gained him a role as a starter. He kept that role for four years despite the presence of a more-highly-recruited quarterback who challenged him this year for a starting role after a relatively poor junior year as a starter.

Yates holds 37 UNC football records, including career and single-season passing yards.

Texans head coach Gary Kubiak made several comments about his choice of Yates in the fifth round.

"The Texans had the league’s top passing offense in 2009 (291 yards per game) and the No. 4 passing offense last season (259 yards per game). Kubiak says Yates guided an almost identical system in Chapel Hill—another attractive quality."

“This kid is a fine player and had a very solid career in college,” Kubiak said. “Nowadays, we look at some players who have one-year careers. This kid had a nice four-year career and played his best as a senior. I like everything he stands for. We’re very fortunate.”

What Kubiak did not say, and could not say, was whether Yates will ever step in for Houston starter Matt Schaub.

Most will say that Yates will not have a chance to start and finish a Houston Texans game this coming season in the absence of either a Schaub trade (which is highly unlikely given his just-signed contract extension) or injury (which is more likely given his history).

Most said the same thing during Yate's starting role at UNC for four years. Yet, here Yates is, at the final football level, getting his chance to start if he can prove himself again.

Given his past, do not vote against Yates.

In many ways, Yates reminds us of Tom Brady—another low-draft-choice quarterback, taken in the Round 6 of the 2000 NFL Draft. Brady was taken that year, languished for a year including being inactive for most of the games, finally started his first game in his second season and never looked back.

Brady and Yates also look very similar physically and in the pocket.

Both are 6'4" and around 225 pounds. While able to scramble, neither are huge scramblers unless pressed into action, preferring a stable pocket to a moving offense. But what is perhaps the most notable trait, and one that could make a lasting impression on the NFL, is their drive to win and leadership abilities.

Just like Brady, once Yates begins to compete, few are capable of the level of commitment that Yates brings to his position. And few are able to lead like Yates.

Most importantly, few can sustain their drive to succeed over an entire season. Yates can do so, over and over, as he has since his high school days—just another level to conquer.

If you have a bet to lay, bet that Yates will eventually start. And rake your money in at today's odds. Because the more you get to know Yates, the more you may feel the same as I do.

It is more likely that Yates will be the next Brady than a complete failure.

Take it to the bank.