ATLANTA -- Even before the Tuesday report that Justin Houston had failed a drug test at the combine two months ago, the draft stock of the University of Georgia defensive end/outside linebacker was sliding precipitously.
Personnel directors or general managers for two teams told The Sports Xchange that they now have Houston graded on their boards as a third-round selection. Several other teams confirmed that they rank the former Bulldogs star, once regarded as a strong prospect for the bottom half of the first round, as a second-rounder.
NFLDraftScout.com has Houston rated as the fifth-best outside linebacker prospect and No. 55 overall.
"But even before (the drug report), we didn't have a first-round grade on him," said one NFC personnel chief. "So it's going to be interesting now to see if that hurts him even more. Our big thing is, 'What is he, an end or a linebacker?' I think that a lot of teams are saying the same thing. ... And you've got so many ends, you know?"
Although he is one of only 10 players in this year's draft pool who registered 10 or more sacks in 2010, Houston appears to be a prospect with a lot of questions. There have been, according to scouts, some concerns about his effort at times. But even more perplexing for teams is the debate about whether he is best suited to play end in a 4-3 front or outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme.
At 6-feet-2 7/8 and 270 pounds, scouts seem to wonder if Houston is stout enough to hang in against the run. And while his 4.62-second 40-yard dash time appears plenty fast enough, and there is no denying Houston's explosiveness off the edge, his ability to defend versus the pass has raised skepticism. Said one area scout: "He seems fluid moving forward, but not dropping off. I know people can say that you can teach a guy to cover, but look at his linebacker drills, and you're not sure."
Houston, 22, had 56 tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss, 10 sacks and 44 quarterback hurries for Georgia in 2010, playing principally as a standup end in the team's new 3-4 alignment. For his career, he notched 110 tackles and 19 sacks.
In 2009, Houston was suspended by UGA coach Mark Richt for two games, allegedly for violating the program's substance abuse policy.
Foxsports.com reported Tuesday that Houston tested positive for marijuana in the drug screening that accompanied the February combine. Several NFL teams, and two sources close to Houston, confirmed the report.
--Len Pasquarelli, Senior NFL Writer, The Sports Xchange