Draft profile: Georgia OLB Justin Houston

April, 8, 2011
4/08/11
2:23
PM ET
Leading up to the April 28-30 NFL draft, ESPNNewYork.com will provide profiles of players being considered by the Jets with the 30th overall pick. Previously, UCLA S Rahim Moore, Baylor NT Phil Taylor, UCLA OLB Akeem Ayers and Ohio State Cameron Heyward were featured.

UNDER THE MICROSCOPE: OLB/DE Justin Houston, Georgia

• Houston (6-3, 270) is one of the most fascinating prospects in the top 40 because there's such a wide variety of opinions on him. There are some mock drafts that have him going as high as 20, but the NFL Network's Mike Mayock doesn't include Houston in his top 32 and ESPN's Scouts, Inc., rates him as the 35th-best prospect. I talked to one scout who gave him a fourth-round grade.

• Houston tested very well (ran a 4.62 40 at the combine), but you can't call him just a workout wonder. Look at his production: 10 sacks and 18.5 tackles-for-loss last season. In 2009, it was 7.5 and 15, respectively. You have to respect the numbers because it came in the SEC, against a high level of competition. In 2010, he was second in the conference in sacks, behind Auburn's Nick Fairley, who will be a top-10 pick.

• Let's take a closer look at Houston's skill set. Georgia switched to a 3-4 last season, allowing Houston to play the role of stand-up rusher/linebacker. That, of course, is how he projects for the Jets. So that's a good thing, right? Not necessarily. In Georgia's scheme, Houston had one responsibility -- chase the quarterback. He wasn't required to drop into pass coverage, which would be part of the job description in Rex Ryan's defense. Scouts say he's quicker out of a three-point stance, meaning he's probably better suited to being a 4-3 DE.

• This is what one scout told me about Houston: "I don't know how he got all those numbers (stats). I turned on the tape and didn't see anything. I thought they gave me the wrong tape." The scout also described Houston as a "country kid" that could struggle in a place like New York.

• In May, 2009, Houston reportedly violated the school's substance-abuse policy. He was suspended the first two games of the '09 season.

• For all his sacks, you'd think he has a quick burst, but his 10-yard time at the combine was a mediocre 1.62 seconds.

Analysis: This would be a terrible pick for the Jets. Houston is a one-trick pony. Granted, that's an important trick -- rushing the passer -- but the Jets like their OLBs to be multi-dimensional. Some scouts think he'd be the second coming of Vernon Gholston. The Jets, of all teams, should stay far away from that.

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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