Georgia pass rusher Justin Houston had a breakout junior season, notching 11 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss. He was very productive in the Bulldogs’ new 3-4 defense, leading many to conclude that he’ll soon be a disruptive 3-4 outside backer in the big leagues.
However, the tape shows that Houston may need more development before he’ll be effective in that role.
Though Houston began the transition to playing with his hand up, he looked much more comfortable and explosive playing with his hand in the dirt. From a three-point stance, Houston displays an excellent first step; from a two-point, he’s less capable of running the arc around offensive tackles. His limited repertoire of rush moves further amplifies the issue.
As a result, Houston may be more effective early on as a nickel rusher. In fact, a 4-3 team could be interested in having him line up at defensive end on passing downs.
Houston would be too much of a liability to be an every down 4-3 defensive end, but he could thrive in the combined strongside linebacker/nickel rusher role that eased Brian Orakpo’s transition to the NFL and allowed Kamerion Wimbley to have success last year in Oakland.
Either way, Houston has excellent upside as a pass rusher, but he may not be quite as NFL-ready as most draftniks think.