Georgia defensive end Justin Houston ran about as expected at the team's pro day Tuesday, slightly improving on his 4.62 40 at the Combine by timing in the high 4.5's on some watches. He also looked solid in position drills, showing good foot quickness and balance when changing directions.
Houston's versatility as a pass-rushing 3-4 OLB or 4-3 defensive end (in systems where being a shade under 6-3 is not a concern) makes him a coveted prospect. Unlike many college defensive ends transitioning into the 3-4, Houston does have some experience rushing from a stand-up position. But his "linebacker" work comprised mostly of chasing the quarterback, so he would have to work on other aspects of his game to be more than a specialist at the next level.
Former Ohio State star Vernon Gholston, recently released by the Jets after taking him with the sixth overall selection in 2006, tested simiarly to Houston coming out of school but struggled to make the transition to the 3-4 outside linebacker position. That's one reason Houston may, instead, be a mid-to-late first round pick to Tampa Bay or New Orleans as a weak-side defensive end.
Georgia's other first-round prospect, receiver A.J. Green, did not participate in agility tests today because he preferred to stand on his Combine results. He did catch throws from former Oregon and Montana quarterback Justin Roper, however, showing his ability to get off the line quickly, stem his route, plant his foot and cut outside in a hurry.
The 6'6", long-legged Roper had some issues hitting Green in stride (partially because they had only a couple of days to work together), so Green got the chance to display his ability to snag high or wide throws with his hands well out in front of his body. He also exhibited the body control to extend above his head (remember the TD vs. Colorado this fall?), find the sideline on out routes, and continue downfield on his route. Few 6-3 5/8" receivers own his explosiveness and quickness, which is why he is considered a certain top ten pick.
To nitpick the workout, as scouts will, Green did double-catch multiple passes, however, with the ball bouncing off his hands slightly before grabbing it the second time. He also allowed a couple of throws too far into his body, which would allow NFL defenders to more easily jostle it from his possession.
He did not face press coverage today, though quarterback coach George Whitfield (who is working with Roper), did stand in front of Green off the snap to show the receiver's ability to escape against press-bail. That is something the lean Green will have to show he can do before going up against physical NFL cornerbacks and is one factor that might cost him the number one spot on teams' receiver rankings to Alabama stud receiver Julio Jones, who is much thicker and put up superior Combine numbers in February.
But anyone watching Green Tuesday saw the elite fluidity, length, and hands that will put him as the top receiver on at least some teams' boards -- and ensure his coming off the board very early come April 28th.
On a side note, NFL scouts got the same view of the pro day as anyone watching the workout on ESPN3.com because Roper did not play in the state of Georgia and his hometown of Buford, Georgia is not within 40 miles of the Athens campus (46.2 miles according to Google Maps). It's an arcane rule that makes little sense--maybe this incident will cause it to be changed.
--Contributed by NFLDraftScout.com Senior Analyst Chad Reuter