Dak Dillon-USA TODAY Sports
One of the fastest linebackers in the draft, Zaviar Gooden would be a significant speed upgrade at inside linebacker.
Finding ways to keep him clean of offensive linemen as much as possible will be a premium, but there are schematic ways around that. If Wade Phillips feels confident he can do that with Gooden, he could be a major hit in Houston's 3-4.
Running and hitting in space should be his specialty. His instincts in coverage have come into question, but he's also shown the athleticism to match up one-on-one with slot receivers.
Gooden isn't too small for the position at 6'1" and 234 pounds. Missouri Tigers are known for their prowess in the weight room, and Gooden supported that reputation with 27 reps at the combine, tops for linebackers.
His speed is well-documented. He posted the best times for linebackers in the 40-yard dash, broad jump, 3-cone drill, 20-yard shuttle and 60-yard shuttle in Indy. He's drawn comparisons to NFL linebacker Zach Brown, who the Tennessee Titans took in the second round last year. Brown came into the NFL with a similar reputation to Gooden and proved he's a legit, every-down linebacker.
Gooden's journey will be a little different, as he'd be playing inside in Houston's 3-4. Though he's been pegged as a weak-side 4-3 linebacker, 3-4 inside linebackers share many of the same responsibilities. It isn't as drastic as an assignment difference as it may seem.
A major speed upgrade inside is necessary after seeing Houston's inside 'backers exploited in space repeatedly in 2012. If nose tackle is addressed properly, the Texans can afford to bring in a lighter, faster linebacker to play next to Brian Cushing, rather than a big thumper.