Scouting Report:

Justin Houston has a lot of potential as a pass rusher, but I think he will need a defensive line coach to light a fire under him to get him to reach his potential.

Positives: Perfect size for a RE in a 4-3 at 6’2” or 6’3” and about 255-260 pounds. He is very athletic and has great explosiveness off the ball, especially when he can get a feel for the snap count. When he gets a great jump off the ball he can beat just about anyone off the edge, and he shows the ability to dip his shoulder to get the edge. He seems to have more than adequate hip flexibility to do this as well. He also flashes the ability to slap away the hands of the tackle as he makes a bee-line around him to the quarterback, which makes him very dangerous. Not only does he threaten off the edge he has also developed the awareness to set the tackle up for the speed rush and then burst back inside and get to the quarterback with an inside move. He has good closing speed to get to the QB and is a reliable tackler both when rushing the QB and when pursuing other ball carriers. He wraps up well, and flashes some good pop as a hitter which helps him forces fumbles occasionally. I have found that he is by far most effective when he has his hand in the dirt as a pass rusher like a 4-3 DE would as he just appears much more explosive off the ball and has a lot more success as a pass rusher. He also does a better job of keeping his pads low to play with good leverage when he comes out of that stance. He flashes the necessary motor to pursue, he did a solid job of this in the Auburn game. Probably because he realized that sacks weren’t going to come easy on Cam Newton. He has been extremely productive in the SEC which you have to take into consideration. He has flashed the ability to use a swim move once or twice a game also.

Negatives: The biggest complaint I have with Houston is his motor. It runs very hot and cold, and more cold than anything else. There are times when he is just jogging in pursuit of ball-carriers and more than once it has cost him a chance at a tackle that would have saved a lot of yardage for his defense or a chance at a sack for him personally. I am not sure why his motor is so inconsistent but it leaves a lot to be desired. I think it might be because he is so athletic that he realizes that if he goes hard on a number of plays that he will be able to make plays when he goes all out. Then he throttles down for other plays, especially against the run. He makes plays in the running game, but not as consistently as he does as a pass rusher. I think he needs to continue to improve his hand usage to help him shed blocks in the running game and as a pass rusher, though he has shown improvement in this area. But the more violent he can get his hands the better off he will be. I am 100% convinced that he would be a vastly better 4-3 RE than he would be a 3-4 OLB. He rarely drops into coverage for Georgia and when he does he does not look comfortable and against Arkansas he got burned on a wheel route and didn’t even realize that his guy was gone until the ball was thrown and he was 15+ yards away for a free touchdown. He is horribly mis-cast in a 3-4. His production this year is not because of his pass rushing when standing up in a 3-4 it is because Georgia faces spread offenses consistently enough that they have to go to nickel packages a lot which means four down lineman for their defense. That is when Houston makes his impact, not when he is standing up or dropping into coverage. However, Houston has almost no secondary pass rush moves. He can speed rush, beat his man to the inside after he sets his man up with the speed rush and then bull rush. Very rarely he will swim move but those moves are few and far between. The fact that he is so effective with such a limited repertoire of pass rush moves makes me wonder just how lethal he could be if someone got in his face and challenged him to go hard on every play and develop secondary pass rush moves. But as of right now his pass rushing is limited, as stupid as that sounds for a player who routinely applied pressure as a pass rusher in the SEC.

Overall: I really like Houston as a prospect and his potential is very high as a RE in a 4-3 in the NFL. His explosiveness and edge speed is pretty rare and he has been a very productive pass rusher the past two years in the SEC. I don’t usually like guys with inconsistent motors like Houston but his potential is high enough that he might be worth the risk for a team that really needs a potentially dominant RE. I think his saving grace might be that he will be worked in on a rotational basis in the NFL for his first couple seasons which will allow him the opportunity to go 100% when he comes in to look to make an impact and make a name for himself. I don’t know him personally obviously and I can’t say this for sure without an interview, but I really think that an in-your-face defensive line coach could motivate him to be a dominant player in the NFL. If he is open to coaching, which it seems like he is considering his development these past two years, then he could very well develop some secondary pass rush moves. I would love to see him improve his swim and club moves, and if he ever works in a spin move that he can use once or twice a game he could be absolutely lethal as a pass rusher. Especially if his hand usage improves as well. Really it comes down to how badly he wants to improve and if he is open to coaching. I believe that a good defensive line coach could motivate him to be a great pass rusher in the NFL though, because he has all the tools and really all he needs is coaching, technique development and someone to light a fire under him and push him to reach his potential. I really hope someone finds a way to motivate him because he could be a very fun pass rusher to watch in the NFL if someone does.

Projection: Top 25-40 picks- I don’t think he will break into the top 20 unless he really impresses in workouts and measurements at the combine and at his pro-day. His motor will probably scare some teams away, as it should. But I think some team in the late first round will take a risk on him, particularly a team with a quality coaching staff that can coach him up, motivate him and develop him.

SKILLS:
1-poor, 2-weak, 3-above average, 4-very good, 5-elite

STRENGTH: 3.0
QUICKNESS: 4.0
PASS RUSH: 4.0
POINT OF ATTACK: 2.5
RECOGNITION: 3.0
MOTOR: 2.0

Hopefully you enjoyed my scouting report! I’m still working through Alabama tape, but I will have stuff up on that eventually as well as some exclusive content from the East/West Shrine Game since I will be there all week! So look out for all of that. Thanks for reading!

–Tom