Every National Football League team was aware of University of Georgia outside linebacker Justin Houston heading into the 2011 draft.
He was big. He was fast. He was strong. And he was on a collision course with every quarterback that got in his way—that is until testing positive for marijuana at the combine that year.
Seen as a first-round talent by most because of his dominance as a pass-rusher in the ultra-competitive SEC, Houston slipped all the way to the third round before being selected by the Kansas City Chiefs.
The on-field results were never an issue, and the way that Houston came on at the end of his rookie season (5.5 sacks in the last five games) is proof that the Chiefs may have gotten the steal of the draft last year.
The slow start to his rookie season can be attributed to the lockout and the typical growing pains endured by first-year players who are suddenly lining up against men in the NFL.
But not only did Houston continue his prowess in getting to the quarterback; he also showed that he could be trusted to stop the run as the season progressed.
Being able to learn and play opposite of Tamba Hali for an entire season will be nothing but a boost for a talent such as Houston. Couple that with the fact that the Chiefs have a defensive unit that is on the rise—led by brilliant defensive-minded head coach Romeo Crennel—and Houston could become a very special player in this league in just his second season.
While the Chiefs have plenty of players to lean on as they try to take back their AFC West crown, Houston’s emergence will be key to how their 2012 season plays out.
If the end of the 2011 campaign is any indication of what to expect from Houston for an entire season, he and the Chiefs could be in for a special year.