Tag:Justin Houston
Posted on: May 13, 2011 12:22 pm
Edited on: May 17, 2011 3:08 pm

Finding the Fits -- Outside Linebacker

Over the last week and a half I have been highlighting a different position each day in an attempt to Find the Fit -- identifying 2011 prospects who are a particularly good schematic fits for the club that selected him. I'll also highlight one player per position who I believe could struggle in his new NFL role. Too often in the past rookies who have struggled in the NFL have done so because they were simply drafted into schemes that didn't fit their individual strengths.

Like at inside linebacker, the traditional 4-3 outside linebacker class of the 2011 draft left a lot to be desired. Many of the collegiate defensive ends asked to make the transition to 3-4 rush linebackers I covered in the defensive end group.

Here are the links for the other positions:
Players are listed alphabetically.

Quality Fits:

Chris Carter, Pittsburgh Steelers:  Considering his burst off the edge, closing speed and production, I was surprised to see Carter slip to No. 162nd pick of the draft. The Steelers, of course, do as good of a job of finding edge rushers as any team in the league. Unlike some of the other DE turned OLBs drafted earlier in 2011, Carter shows enough flexibility to dip around the offensive tackle and close on the quarterback -- the critical trait needed to star as a 3-4 rush linebacker. He led the WAC with 11 sacks and 16.5 tackles for loss, earning conference Defensive Player of the Year honors. With stars ahead of him, Carter may struggle to find early playing time. When he gets his opportunity, however, he'll do well.

Mason Foster, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: It remains to be seen where Foster - who played inside and outside for the Huskies -- will be used by the Bucs, which have key free agents in starting middle linebacker Barrett Ruud and outside linebacker Quincy Black. Foster, who finished second to only Boston College superstar Luke Kuechly in tackles last year (163 stops), has the production and experience to step in at either spot. While he's not as athletic as Black, nor the physical thumper inside that Ruud is, Foster has excellent instincts, uses his hands to slip blocks as well as any linebacker in this draft and is a very reliable open field tackler.

Brian Rolle, Philadelphia Eagles:  As I mentioned  yesterday in my writeup for inside linebackers, the Eagles have shown a preference for undersized, athletic linebackers throughout Andy Reid's tenure. In Rolle, they found one of the smallest (5-10, 229) and most athletic in this year's draft. Rolle's instincts, surprising physicality and pure speed (4.53) made him a star at Ohio State on defense and special teams. He'll likely earn his paycheck initially as a special teams demon for the Eagles, but could surprise if given the opportunity for playing time as a weakside coverage linebacker. 

Questionable Fit:

Justin Houston, Kansas City Chiefs: Because Houston demonstrated the ability to rack up production as an outside linebacker in Georgia's 3-4 scheme, he has been characterized by some as one of the better OLB prospects in this draft. I'm considerably lower on him than many others, however, and have been long before reports of his failed drug test at the Combine. Quite frankly, Houston is more explosive off the edge when he has his hand in the dirt as a traditional 4-3 defensive end. When rushing from the stand-up position, he's shown only moderate burst and flexibility to turn the corner. Furthermore, I question whether he has the work ethic to hone his craft. On paper, Houston was a "steal" in the third round considering his All-SEC pedigree and eye-popping statistics. In reality, Houston could struggle making the adjustment to NFL talent.

Posted on: April 27, 2011 2:59 pm

Houston's stock was slipping before drug test

ATLANTA -- Even before the Tuesday report that Justin Houston had failed a drug test at the combine two months ago, the draft stock of the University of Georgia defensive end/outside linebacker was sliding precipitously.
How far?
Personnel directors or general managers for two teams told The Sports Xchange that they now have Houston graded on their boards as a third-round selection. Several other teams confirmed that they rank the former Bulldogs star, once regarded as a strong prospect for the bottom half of the first round, as a second-rounder.
NFLDraftScout.com has Houston rated as the fifth-best outside linebacker prospect and No. 55 overall.
"But even before (the drug report), we didn't have a first-round grade on him," said one NFC personnel chief. "So it's going to be interesting now to see if that hurts him even more. Our big thing is, 'What is he, an end or a linebacker?' I think that a lot of teams are saying the same thing. ... And you've got so many ends, you know?"
Although he is one of only 10 players in this year's draft pool who registered 10 or more sacks in 2010, Houston appears to be a prospect with a lot of questions. There have been, according to scouts, some concerns about his effort at times. But even more perplexing for teams is the debate about whether he is best suited to play end in a 4-3 front or outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme.
At 6-feet-2 7/8 and 270 pounds, scouts seem to wonder if Houston is stout enough to hang in against the run. And while his 4.62-second 40-yard dash time appears plenty fast enough, and there is no denying Houston's explosiveness off the edge, his ability to defend versus the pass has raised skepticism. Said one area scout: "He seems fluid moving forward, but not dropping off. I know people can say that you can teach a guy to cover, but look at his linebacker drills, and you're not sure."
Houston, 22, had 56 tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss, 10 sacks and 44 quarterback hurries for Georgia in 2010, playing principally as a standup end in the team's new 3-4 alignment. For his career, he notched 110 tackles and 19 sacks.
In 2009, Houston was suspended by UGA coach Mark Richt for two games, allegedly for violating the program's substance abuse policy.
Foxsports.com reported Tuesday that Houston tested positive for marijuana in the drug screening that accompanied the February combine. Several NFL teams, and two sources close to Houston, confirmed the report.

--Len Pasquarelli, Senior NFL Writer, The Sports Xchange

Posted on: April 26, 2011 10:34 am
Edited on: April 26, 2011 11:29 am

Report: Houston, Ballard failed combine drug test

Georgia outside linebacker/defensive end Justin Houston and Iowa defensive lineman Christian Ballard failed drug tests at the scouting combine in Indianapolis in February, according to a report by FOXSports.com.

Houston is a converted defensive end who registered 10 sacks as a junior in a pass-rushing role created for him by the Bulldogs' defensive staff, and he jumped on the opportunity to leave Georgia after his junior season. He has been considered a late-first or second-round draft value and is the No. 44-rated player overall by NFLDraftScout.com.

Houston has been an intriguing prospect for 3-4 teams because he already has a season of experience rushing off the edge, compared to most converted defensive ends who need to make a completely new transition to the role in the NFL. However, he's also considered a one-trick pony who is more athlete than football player at this point and might lack the explosiveness to develop into an elite pass rusher in the NFL.

Ballard has been projected as a second-round pick and is the 59th-rated prospect by NFLDraftScout.com, including the 10th-rated player in a very deep defensive end class. He has experience inside and outside and plays with explosion and hustle. A tight end when he arrived at Iowa, Ballard is excellent in one-on-one drills but struggles to make impact plays once the whistle blows.

Neither player has any previous records involving marijuana, according to the FOXSports.com report. If the reports of a failed drug test are true, it could significantly impact both players, who were already entering the draft fighting the dreaded 'tweener label as excellent athletes who might lack an ideal position in the NFL.

--Derek Harper, NFLDraftScout.com Executive Editor

Posted on: April 19, 2011 6:05 pm

Reuter/Shehadi discuss Draft's Risers/Fallers

My fellow Senior Analyst Chad Reuter and CBSSports.com's Lauren Shehadi discussed the latest Risers and Fallers in preparation of next week's NFL Draft.

Rather than waste time by explaining what was said, I've just embedded the video for you to watch.

Posted on: March 22, 2011 1:18 pm
Edited on: March 22, 2011 1:53 pm

Bulldogs have some bite

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
Posted on: February 9, 2011 8:44 pm
Edited on: February 9, 2011 8:54 pm

Why these hyped 5 didn't make my Top 32 (or 42)

Today we released my initial Top 32 "Big Board" as part of NFLDraftScout.com's expanded coverage of the 2011 NFL Draft.

Though I was asked to only list 32 players, I thought it important to list the next 10 prospects who just missed the cut, which, of course, also highlights those who did not make the list.

There are some awfully good football players out there that didn't make my list. The following five are the ones I expect fans will be the most surprised by. This post is designed to explain why those players didn't make my list.

Players are listed alphabetically.

Jon Baldin, WR, Pittsburgh: If the buzz in the scouting community is accurate and Baldwin does dazzle scouts at the Combine with breathtaking speed at 6-5, 230 pounds he'll be moving up a lot of boards. Not mine, though. I don't care how fast he runs in a straight-line, I see a prospect who lacks the flexibility and balance to create explosion out of his breaks and isn't nearly as physical a receiver as his size would indicate either.

Justin Houston, OLB, Georgia: Houston was a dominant force in the SEC this season, earning First-Team honors with 67 tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss and 10 sacks. He has experience as a 4-3 defensive end and a 3-4 rush linebacker. However, I believe he's a more explosive rusher with his hand in the ground than he is standing up and I haven't seen enough fluidity in his drops to make me believe he's anything more than a one-trick pass rusher. I believe he is one of the more overrated prospects in the draft to this point.

Drake Nevis, DT, LSU: I listed Nevis as a player who missed an opportunity in this recent post-all-star game wrap-up because I really believe he could have made himself some money by going to the Senior Bowl. As I  noted in that article, Nevis' ability to collapse the pocket made him the SEC's best defensive lineman not named Nick Fairley. Still, at only 6-1, 285 pounds, he's a rotational player. Not many teams can justify taking a rotational player in the first round, so I think there is a very real possibility he slips out. I'd take him in the second round if I can a 4-3 defense and needed a penetrating three-technique, but not until halfway through the round.

Ryan Williams, RB, Virginia Tech: There is a lot I like about Williams. In fact, there are elements to his game that I believe translate better to the NFL than Illinois' Mikel LeShoure, who I rated as the 33rd best prospect. However, the struggles with durability concern me as Williams is 5-11, 205 pounds. In a class with as much middle round talent at RB as this one, I believe it drops the value of good, but not special backs like Williams.

Martez Wilson, ILB, Illinois:
Of the five listed here, Wilson was the closest to making my list. In fact, I currently have him as the 43rd best prospect and a solid 2nd round pick. Like most NFL teams, I struggle with stamping a first round grade on inside linebackers. Wilson is the class of the position, however, and could creep up my board if he works out and interviews well. I believe he has the upside to ultimately be a better player in the NFL than he was in college.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com