Scouting Report: Justin Houston
One of the defensive players with the most upside in this year’s class, Houston has turned a lot of heads since deciding to forego his senior year and enter the NFL. After spending his first two years as a defensive end for the Bulldogs, he spent the 2010 season standing up as an outside linebacker and proved he could be just as effective from there. He has a tremendous burst off of the line of scrimmage and possesses a great combination of speed and strength to work his way past offensive lineman. Although he may be raw, he has the athleticism and skill set to be effective in coverage as well, which makes him a viable option for a 3-4 team looking to add a promising, young outside linebacker. Despite being somewhat of a one-year wonder, his talent and athleticism will be too hard to overlook. I project him as a late-first round pick.
At the point of attack, Houston uses a mix of upper body strength and hand placement to fend off opposing offensive lineman. While engaged with a blocker, he keeps his eyes up and does a good job of tracking the ball carrier down as the play progresses. He effectively uses his athleticism to avoid blockers and finds ways to put himself into position to make a play on the runner. He also has a tendency to over-pursuit runners and can pursuit too deep into the backfield. However, he doesn’t have the ideal size or strength to play as a 4-3 defensive end and will most likely need to stick to an outside linebacker role in the NFL.
During his time at Georgia, he was mostly called upon to put pressure on the quarterback instead of dropping into coverage. However, that doesn’t mean that the potential for a solid coverage linebacker doesn’t lie in waiting. His coverage skills are raw, but he shown some promise with his ability to effectively read and react to routes. He does a job of locating the ball and getting himself into position to make a play. He efficiently reads quarterbacks’ eyes and slides in zones with finesse and confidence. Clearly, his forte is rushing the passer, but he has the potential to play the pass as well with some coaching.
This is easily one of the most intriguing facets of his game. When coming off of the line, he has an impressive first step that allows him to blow past offensive tackles and work his way towards the quarterback. His repertoire of moves is somewhat limited, but he does a good job of mixing up his use of speed and finesse to keep offensive lineman on their toes. Whether he’s going inside or outside, he has the speed, quickness and tenacity to find a path to the quarterback. Sometimes can be overwhelmed at the point of attack when going against bigger offensive linemen. Has experience playing both the defensive end and outside linebacker positions, so there is a little more versatility already instilled in him than some of the other more raw outside linebacker prospects.
Houston possesses good hip technique and movement that allows him to drive through tackles. He is strong enough to bring down bigger backs without having to cut out their legs as well as force fumbles. In the open field, he has nice hip movement and can shuffle well to get himself into position to make a one-on-one tackle. His lack of speed can sometimes get him in trouble when trying to chase down runners, however, and can result in poor attempts at making a tackle due to bad positioning and angling. Too often, he goes up high on tackles and forces his teammates to clean up the play.
From both the defensive end and linebacker positions, he showed good instincts and was able to read and react effectively on a consistent basis. When rushing/blitzing, he times the snap well and uses his outstanding first step to beat offensive linemen off of the ball. He rarely takes false steps and does a good job of reading and reacting to the quarterback’s eyes in coverage considering he only has a year of coverage experience.
He does a good job of squaring his hips in the open field to make technically sound tackles. When playing the pass, he has a good feel for sliding across the defense with the receivers as well as working his way into zones. Against the run, he does a good job of keeping his hips parallel to the line and working his way towards the ball carrier.
In May of 2009, he was suspended from the team for violating Georgia’s substance abuse policy, which cost him the first two games of the season. He also was a letterman in basketball during high school. He has been described as a workout warrior in the weight room, showing his work ethic and desire to make himself better. Many scouts and writers see him as one of the draft’s most overrated players. **Edit: April 26th** Houston reportedly failed a drug test at the Scouting Combine, which could affect his stock on draft day.
2010: Started 13 of 13 games.
2009: Started 10 of 13 games; Missed first due games due to violating university substance abuse policy, missed one other game due to injury.
2008: Played in 13 games, including 1 start.
Majored in Housing at Georgia; 2010 recipient of the Statesburg Bulldog Club Football Scholarship; 2009 Athletic Director’s Honor Roll during summer semester.
Awards & Honors
2010: First-Team All-American (FWAA, Pro Football Weekly); Second-Team All-American (Walter Camp); First-Team All-SEC (SEC Coaches, Phil Steele, Rivals.com); Georgia’s Defensive MVP; CFPW 2010 National Linebacker Trophy; Finalist for Bronko Nagurski and Dick Butkus awards; Semifinalist for Chuck Bednarik Award;
2009: Second-Team All-SEC (SEC Coaches, Phil Steele, Associated Press)
Prospect Video Clips
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