Bill Belichick hasn’t been keen on using high draft picks on pass rushers, particularly outside linebackers, but with three early picks in this month’s draft, the Patriots have the chance to take some chances and be a little more aggressive than usual.
If Belichick goes that route, Georgia outside linebacker Justin Houston would be an attainable target.
The 6-foot-3, 270-pounder recorded 10 sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss as a junior in 2010.
Why the Patriots Would Want Him
Houston responded magnificently last season when Georgia switched to a 3-4 defense. He converted from an undersized 4-3 defensive end into a 3-4 outside linebacker, and his athleticism was better suited for that scheme. Houston is still raw because he left college after three years and only had one season in the 3-4, but his potential might be untapped because of that. Houston could become a really good pass rusher once he progresses.
Why the Patriots Might Stay Away
First, because they don’t use first-round picks on outside linebackers. Second, Houston still needs work on his pass drops, and he wouldn’t be a three-down player right away, and that is obviously important for Belichick.
Potential Impact in 2011
Houston would be used on a rotational basis with the Patriots’ outside linebackers depending on the situation. If Houston proves his worth as one of the team’s best pass rushers, he’ll get plenty of reps as he learns to play as a more complete outside linebacker.
What The Locals Are Saying
Houston has a strong connection to Cowboys outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware.
Where Can the Patriots Expect to Draft Houston?
He’ll definitely be there for the taking at No. 17, but it’s unclear how far he’ll fall after that. Houston could be gone at No. 18 (Chargers) or No. 19 (Giants), or he could slip into the latter half of the second round. Houston’s stock has been up and down over the last couple of months. There have been times when he has looked like a top-20 prospect and others when it hasn’t been certain that he’d be taken in the first round at all.
Every day through April 28, NESN.com will spotlight one player the Patriots could draft with one of their first three picks.
Friday, April 1: California defensive end Cameron Jordan
Saturday, April 2: North Carolina defensive end/outside linebacker Robert Quinn
Sunday, April 3: Ohio State defensive lineman Cameron Heyward
Monday, April 4: Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones
Tuesday, April 5: Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara
Wednesday, April 6: Alabama running back Mark Ingram
Thursday, April 7: Boston College tackle Anthony Castonzo
Friday, April 8: Florida interior lineman Mike Pouncey
Saturday, April 9: Wisconsin tackle Gabe Carimi
Monday, April 11: Clemson defensive end/outside linebacker Da’Quan Bowers
Photo via Flickr/Daaka2