#26 DE/OLB, Justin Houston (6’3 254 lbs.) – Georgia Bulldogs
Instincts/Recognition: Has experience playing outside linebacker and defensive end. Fairly good instincts verses the run. Does a good job at locating ball carriers after disengaging blockers. Is discipline in his run fits. Needs to improve on his pursuit angles. Is susceptible to delays and draws, because he gets too far upfield. Against the pass, his instincts are below average. Often displays a one track mind when rushing the passer, which causes him to fail at recognizing screen plays. Also lacks awareness in underneath coverage. He tends to take false steps which cause him to be out of place when the ball is thrown.
Strength/Toughness: Very strong in the upper body. Has the strength to get underneath linemen’s pads and walk them back into the quarterback. Plays the game with violent hands. Displays good lower body strength which allows him to anchor against the run. Is one of Georgia’s toughest players.
Range vs. Run: Has the speed and athleticism to play sideline to sideline. Holds up well against linemen by using his long arms to keep them at bay. Plays with good leverage and balance. Shows above average closing speed when pursuing ball carriers from the back the side. Does a good job at keeping contain to his side. Motor runs hot and cold. Will sometimes give up on plays that are not ran to his side. Will also jog around while in pursuit of balls carriers that have reached the second level and beyond.
Tackling: Solid tackler who wraps up well. Uses his upper body strength to lay a good pop on ball carriers. Rarely misses tackles in the open field. Will struggle on occasion to break down in space against shiftier ball carriers.
3rd Down Capabilities: A dynamic edge rusher that is multifaceted. He can use his speed to bend the corner or his strength to bull rush linemen and collapse the pocket. Gets off the ball extremely well with an explosive first step. Motor runs hot when rushing the passer. Has the closing speed to chase down mobile quarterbacks. Is a menace when rushing the passer. Causes a lot of mistakes and turnovers because of the pressure that he gets. Wasn’t asked to drop into coverage much. Played the majority of third downs with his hand in the dirt. He did get an interception against Georgia Tech, but is still a liability in pass coverage at this point.
Intangibles: Was suspended by the team for two games in 2009 for violating team rules. 2010 Team Captain. Very fiery player that leads his teammates by example as well as vocals.
Overall Stock: Justin Houston finished the season second in sacks in the SEC. With his change from defensive end to outside linebacker in the 3-4, he saw he production go way up. Houston is the definition of a hybrid player. He can either play the rush outside linebacker position in the 3-4 or defensive end in the 4-3. There aren’t many dynamic pass rushers in the 2011 draft, and with half of the league needing to upgrade their pass rush, don’t expect Houston to be on the board in the second round. With his speed and explosion, he can make an immediate impact.
NFL Comparison: Terrell Suggs