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Fairley, Ponder, OLB Houston visiting

Posted Mar 31, 2011

The stream of pre-draft visits by NFL prospects continued at One Bills Drive Thursday as Buffalo hosted a trio of top flight prospects.

Auburn defensive lineman Nick Fairley, Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder and Georgia OLB Justin Houston were all at the team’s facility Thursday morning.

Buffalo’s personnel department was well represented at Fairley’s pro day on March 8th with a contingent that included Bills GM Buddy Nix. The SEC Defensive Player of the Year had a school record 24 tackles for loss in 2010 along with 11.5 sacks to lead the conference.

“The strengths I think I bring to the field are I’m a great pass rusher and a great run stopper,” he said. “I try to dominate inside in the middle and I think that’s what teams are looking for and I hope I can be that guy that they look for.”

Fairley, who will reportedly visit with eight NFL clubs picking in the top 10, has been widely forecast as a sure fire top 10 pick.

Perhaps no prospect has as much history as Christian Ponder does with Bills head coach Chan Gailey. The Florida State signal caller has known Gailey since high school.

“We had a prior relationship,” said Ponder. “When he was the coach at Georgia Tech they recruited me pretty hard and they were probably my second choice next to Florida State. I actually had a good relationship with (Bills offensive coordinator/running backs) Coach (Curtis) Modkins. He was the guy that recruited me personally. It was good to work with them at the Senior Bowl and was a pretty unique situation.”

Ponder was named the Senior Bowl MVP after going 7-13 passing for 132 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the South Team's 24-10 win.

One thing Ponder has working in his favor in comparison to several of the other quarterbacks in the draft class is the offense he ran at Florida State.

“He was in more of a traditional pro offense than maybe some of the other quarterbacks in the draft, so I think his transition will be a little easier,” said Gailey. “He was hurt a lot. That’s always a question and something that you have to make sure you research extensively to feel comfortable about a guy like that. Mentally and physically talent-wise he’s fine. I think he’s got a chance to be very successful.”

Ponder had a private workout with the Minnesota Vikings in Tallahassee on Tuesday. He’s been projected to come off the board either late in round one or early in round two.

Georgia’s Justin Houston was right behind Fairley in the SEC, finishing second in sacks with 10 to go along with 44 quarterback hurries and 18.5 tackles for loss. He also was the beneficiary of a defensive scheme switch by the Georgia staff.

Previously a defensive end in a 4-3, Houston was transitioned to an outside linebacker in their new 3-4 scheme in 2010. His ultra-productive season may have convinced some scouts that despite being 6’3” and 270 pounds that he might be a better fit at outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme.

Houston improved on his 4.62 40 time at the combine running in the high 4.5s at his pro day. He stood on everything else, which included a 36 ½-inch vertical, 30 reps on the bench and a 10’5” broad jump.

He’s been forecast as a mid to late first round pick.

The Georgia pass rusher has already met with Baltimore and has other pre-draft visits scheduled with San Francisco, Seattle, Minnesota, Tampa Bay, Kansas City. He also reportedly has private workouts scheduled with Atlanta and the New York Giants.

Throughout the month of April, we are running 2011 NFL Draft prospect stories each week.  In addition, Bills fans can vote in the Bills and M&T Bank Draft Day Challenge who they think will be the Bills first pick in the upcoming NFL Draft, and have the chance to win a Bills Game Day Experience to remember.  Five grand prize winners will get sideline passes, M&T Bank Club tickets that include food and beverage, a Bills Alumni meet and greet and a Bills helmet.  Click here to vote.