Fellow linebacker Dent also drafted
By SETH EMERSON
ATHENS, Ga. -- Justin Houston fell farther in the NFL draft than he anticipated. And the former Georgia linebacker blamed himself.
The Kansas City Chiefs chose Houston with their pick in the third round, 70th overall. Houston had been projected as high as the late first-round, but it was reported this week that he tested positive for marijuana at the NFL Scouting Combine in February. Former teammate and linebacker Akeem Dent also went in the third round. The Falcons stayed in the Southeast again (they drafted Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones in the first round), picking Dent with the 91st overall pick and their second pick.
Houston seemed to allude to that Friday in a conference call, answering “no sir” when asked if he were surprised to fall in the draft.
“Me and my agent talked. Because of some of the poor decisions I made, it probably put me in this position,” Houston said.
Houston said he discussed the situation with the Chiefs before the draft.
“I feel like I was very honest with them. Just told them it was a mistake that I had made. I’m putting it behind me. I’ll do whatever they want me to do. I think they trust me. They took a chance, and I’m going to make them proud for taking a chance.”
Houston left Georgia after his junior year, when he had 10 sacks. If several on-air analysts are to be believed, it wasn’t just the reported failed drug test that scared away some teams.
Former NFL coach Jon Gruden called Houston the most disappointed guy he studied in the draft.
“I don’t like guys that don’t play hard all the time. This guy has to pick it up and be an every-down player at the next level.”
Draft analyst Todd McShay said Houston was impressive at the combine, but teams soured on his effort.
“The problem is this guy doesn’t play every single down like it’s the last play of his career, which drives you crazy because he has so much potential,” McShay said.
Still, Houston seems to be going into a good situation. Kansas City plays a 3-4 defense, which Houston flourished in as a junior at Georgia. And with Mike Vrabel set for free agency, Houston will be a favorite to start at one outside linebacker spot, opposite Tamba Hali.
The Chiefs also like SEC players, having used their first-rounders in 2009 (Glenn Dorsey, LSUs) and 2010 (Eric Berry, Tennessee) on former league players. They also have picked Dexter McCluster (Ole Miss), Tyson Jackson (LSU) and Javier Arenas (Alabama) in the past three years.
But Houston is the first Georgia player to ever be drafted by the Chiefs. That leaves the Houston Texans, who came into existence in 2002, as the only current NFL franchise never to draft a Bulldog.
Tight end Leonard Pope, a former Georgia player who was originally drafted by Arizona, is also a member of the Chiefs.