*This article is part of our 2012 Path to the Draft coverage presented by Warehouse Pool Supply
State of the Position (@NickScurfield)
Will the Texans draft a nose tackle in 2012? They didn't in 2011 despite a widespread belief among fans and media that they would and should.
After being hired last offseason, defensive coordinator Wade Phillips insisted that he didn't need a giant nose tackle in his 3-4. He said he was happy with Shaun Cody and Earl Mitchell. Many chalked it up to coach-speak, but then the draft rolled around and the Texans didn't draft a nose. Then, free agency rolled around and the Texans didn't sign one.
Then, the Texans ranked second in defense and fourth against the run in 2011. Cody, a seventh-year veteran, started all 16 games for the second consecutive season. He had 23 tackles (16 solo), one sack and 1.5 tackles for loss. Mitchell, a third-year pro, rotated with Cody and had 27 tackles (14 solo) and one sack. He also had a sack in the playoffs.
The Texans certainly could draft a nose tackle later this week, but they haven't indicated it's a priority.
"If you look at [Cody and Mitchell], take both of 'em and say they're your starter – they basically split time – they played extremely well," Texans coach Gary Kubiak said at the NFL Scouting Combine in February. "And our defense played well all year long. There's all kinda ways when you're running a 3-4 – a lot of people think you need a big nose. Those two guys aren't very big but they're very active, and Wade has played with both and obviously was successful with those two guys last year, and we think the world of 'em."
DAY 1 NOSE TACKLE OPTIONS AT 1.26
1. Dontari Poe, Memphis (6-5, 350):A freakishly gifted athlete for a man his size, Poe grabbed the national headlines after a stellar combine performance in February that featured a sub-5.0 40-yard-dash. He has a rare physical skill set due to his combination of flexibility, power and get-off burst. However, Poe is still learning the nuances of the position and if he's willing to put in the time, he can mature into one of the leagues better interior presences. Nevertheless, because he's raw, the possibility of him struggling in the NFL is a possibility.
2. Alameda Ta'amu, Washington (6-3, 337):A four-year contributor who notched 50 appearances during his time with the Huskies, Ta'amu recorded a career-high 3.5 sacks in 2011. He's a massive presence inside and possesses elite natural width and girth through his lower half, but doesn't look soft at all, as he carries his weight very well. Displays the ability to sit into his stance, keeps his base under him and generates a nice snap off the football.
DAY 2 NOSE TACKLE OPTIONS AT 2.26 AND 3.13
1. Josh Chapman, Alabama (6-1, 310):Chapman didn't roll up a gaudy stat line while playing for the Crimson Tide, but he anchored a defensive line that paved the way for linebackers like Dont'a Hightower to wreck havoc in the run game. He has the making of a starting caliber nose tackle at the next level in either a 3-4 and 4-3 front. Can consistently anchor on contact, is long armed and tough to move off the football. Also, Chapman is a better pass rusher than he's given credit for. Will likely fall because of medical concerns, but could be a real bargain because of it.
2. Mike Martin, Michigan (6-2, 304): One of the more powerful defensive linemen in this year's draft class, Martin notched 64 tackles and 3.5 sacks in 13 games for the Wolverines last season. We consider him the kind of prospect you don't want to bet against. Martin is somewhat limited and doesn't have the kind of frame required to pack on more size, but we can see him working his way into a rotation as a nose tackle in the NFL and being the kind of player that coaches love.
DAY 3 NOSE TACKLE OPTONS AT 4.4, 4.26, 5.26, 6.26 AND 7.26
1. Damon Harrison, William Penn (6-2, 340):A four-year standout who recorded 224 tackles in 44 games at William Penn, Harrison is a thick, solid player with a really wide trunk, broad set of shoulders and massive lower half. He's the kind of physically put together player who can develop as a nose in either a 3-4 or 4-3 front. In a weaker senior class at nose tackle, we would rather roll the dice on a kid with higher upside like Harrison than most of the average senior guys at bigger schools who are also likely to be drafted in the later rounds as well.
2. Hebron Fangupo, BYU (6-1, 330): He only amassed 32 tackles in 23 games at BYU, so it's safe to say that Fangupo is a bit of a developmental project. A former JUCO player who transferred from USC to BYU following the 2010 season, Fangupo is a raw player who finally has learned to sit into his stance, play with his base down and fire off the football. However, despite his shorter frame, he still gets upright off the ball and will struggle with leverage at times in the run game.