Justin Houston. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Name: OLB Justin Houston
Size: 6'3, 270 lbs
Expected Round: 1st-2nd
3 Cone: 6.95s
Career Stats: Click Here
Strengths: Makes great plays in the backfield. Seems to have optimal size with reasonable athleticism to match. He comes out of Georgia's hybrid 3-4 defense. Able to stop the run. Solid bull rush to get into the pocket and great speed rush to turn the corner against tackles. He's actually a pretty solid OLB project.
Weaknesses: Not athletic enough to drop into coverage. Seems to only have one real pass rush move- speed around the edge, which means he has a similar rushing skill set to Tully Banta-Cain. Misreads run plays. Bites on the play fakes. Gets stonewalled too easily. He needs to develop his pass rushing skills, his run stuffing recognition, and his coverage abilities. He's a junior and he needs more experience in order to succeed at the next level.
Why and Why Not the Patriots after the jump, and my final verdict!
Why the Patriots?: Houston could be the best OLB in the draft. He has the athleticism to thrive as an OLB in the NFL, as long as he's properly developed. He can stop the run, he can rush the quarterback, he can develop into a solid coverage linebacker, or at least a linebacker who can drop into a zone and cover in the flat. The only thing that's holding Houston back from being a more elite prospect is his lack of experience. He's a junior and with the right tutelage, he could succeed with the Patriots.
Why Not the Patriots?: Houston's been projected as a top 20 pick to a top 50 pick. Houston is an okay pick at the start of the second round, but he's not enough of a proven commodity to succeed in the NFL. Every time I watch him on tape, I get the "I'm not impressed" feeling. He could possibly be nothing better than a Tully Banta-Cain in the NFL and that's the feeling I got after watching him.
Verdict: I'm not a big fan of Houston. He's never really been utilized to drop into coverage, he continuously misreads run plays, he's not really a penetrator into the backfield, and he's usually blocked out or run out of plays. For all the praise the draft reports heap on him, I just don't see it on the field. He has one or two plays the whole game, but has neutral, or negative impact the rest of his time on the field. I see a Tully Banta-Cain when I watch his video. No to Houston.