BIRDLAND — During the college football season, ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper does a review of the games on Mondays for the worldwide leader’s website.
While doing the reviews last season, Georgia linebacker Justin Houston kept catching Kiper’s attention. Some teams are scouting Houston as an outside linebacker in the 3-4 scheme. Others see Houston as a defensive end with skills to rush the passer.
“There were some weeks where he was quiet,” Kiper said. “There were some weeks where he was dominant. I think this, instinctively as an outside linebacker in the 3-4, he might struggle a little bit on his feet.”
Kiper believes that Houston would flourish as an end in a 4-3 scheme.
“That’s where he can shine,” Kiper said. “That’s his best spot.”
Kiper believes Houston could be headed to Tampa Bay at the 20th spot or to New England, which has the 17th and 28th picks in the draft. He notes that New England likes their outside linebackers to attack more.
“I could see the New England Patriots taking Justin Houston,” Kiper said. “I just think with his hand on the ground is where he will be best.”
The Falcons have heavily scouted Houston, who could be an option for them with the 27th overall pick.
“He’ll go late-first, but there are some people with mixed opinions on where he projects in the NFL,” Kiper said.
Houston, who skipped his senior season at Georgia to enter the draft, was an All-SEC outside linebacker last season.
The Falcons like Houston’s ability to make plays in the opposition’s backfield. He had 10 sacks and 18 ½ tackles for loss last season. Houston’s 20 career sacks rank seventh on the school’s all-time list.
Houston bench pressed 225-pounds 30 times at he NFL scouting combine, which was the fourth highest total in the linebacker group.
–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog