2011 NFL Draft Prospect Profile: Justin Houston, DE/LB, Georgia

We do our best here at Big Blue View to stay on top of all of the current information regarding the New York Giants. Thus, when word surfaced on Wednesday that the Giants had scheduled a private workout with Georgia defensive end/outside linebacker Justin Houston that meant only one thing -- it was time to make Houston the subject of a 2011 NFL Draft prospect profile.

Maybe the Giants have real interest in the 6-foot-3, 270-pound Houston. Maybe they don't. Scheduling private workouts, though, is a pretty good indicator that there is at least some level of curiosity.

At first glance, any Giants' interest in Houston seems odd. He is considered by most scouts to be a better fit as a 3-4 outside linebacker, a position he excelled in during the 2010 season, than he is as a 4-3 defensive end.

A closer look, though, reveals a phrase that ALWAYS gets the Giants' attention. "Explosive pass rusher." The Giants never met one of those they would not consider, no matter how many they already have in their collection. Like people who collect just about anything valuable, the Giants just can't resist adding to their stable of pass-rushers when the opportunity presents itself. Simply put, the Giants are pass-rush addicts.

When it comes to Houston, there is a school of thought that he is too small to be a traditional 4-3 defensive end. That flies in the face of the Giants current roster, though. Jason Pierre-Paul weighs 270 pounds, Osi Umenyiora 261, Dave Tollefson (who is under-sized) 255 and Mathias Kiwanuka 260. So, how is Houston under-sized for the position?

Speaking of Kiwanuka the report of the Giants working out Houston, matched with the skill set you will read about in the scouting reports, makes me wonder if the Giants are looking to protect themselves if Kiwanuka is not healthy enough to play. Houston seems like the type of "hybrid" player who might be able to fill the role Kiwanuka had in 2010 before his neck injury.

Scouting reports after the jump.

Justin Houston
OLB/DE, Georgia
6-foot-3, 270 pounds
Projection: Round 1 or 2

Scouting Reports

From NFL.com:

Houston is a bit undersized as a traditional 4-3 defensive end but fits the mold of a 3-4 outside linebacker. Gets off the ball quickly, has enough athleticism to get the corner, and can also use the bull rush but needs to do a better job after contact and widen his array moves. Flashes the ability to keep blockers off his body, set the edge, get off blocks and make plays and make plays in pursuit but needs to show more intensity shedding and playing in a phone booth. Has the athleticism to drop into coverage but may struggle in man. Early Day 2 prospect.

From CBS Sports:

A former defensive end, Houston became a stand-up pass rusher in Georgia's new 3-4 scheme in 2010. Considering the pass-rushing prowess he'd shown as an undersized defensive end in 2009, he proved to be made for the new role.

Roughly half of the 32 NFL teams use a three-man line as their base defense. Versatile pass rushers like Houston are more valuable than ever. With a season of experience already under his belt -- as opposed to making the transition in training camp -- Houston has an advantage over similarly built athletes yet to prove they can make the switch. He might be viewed as a one-trick pony but, because of his burst off the edge, Houston the potential to be a top-50 pick.

From Sideline Scouting:

Positives: Excellent size and build to play outside in a 3-4 scheme, has good bulk and above-average strength for the position... Sack totals have been very impressive (21 career sacks, 11 in 2010)... Pretty good speed for his size... Massive 34½" arms... Monster in the weight room, power cleaned 420 pounds during workouts in 2009, is a workout warrior... Was named Butkus Award finalist for 2010 as one of nation's standout linebackers... Very humble and modest, feels the need to constantly improve and works hard to get better in every facet of the game, sets a good example as a leader for his teammates... Is very quick off the snap, times the count well and has an explosive first step off the line... Is fairly disciplined and plays with good instincts as both a five-technique end and an outside linebacker... Uses hands well when engaged with blockers, maintains balance and keeps play-side hand free on most occasions... Utilizes hefty frame and strong upper body when engaged with blockers, stays relatively low and will not get pushed away from running plays directly at him... Has the intangibles to be a big-time pass rusher and solid all-around player and leader in the NFL because of good motor and strong work ethic... Has a lot of experience playing with his hand in the dirt and will get looks at 4-3 DE as well.

Negatives: Plays much more like a weakside defensive end on first and second down than he does a linebacker, can get too deep into the backfield and get out of position on plays up the middle of the line... Will never be very proficient in coverage, will be suitable to defend short routes in the NFL, but will likely be predominantly a pass rusher.

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