Cowboys Potential Draft Picks: Lamarr Houston, DT/DE, Texas
In a recent mailbag, we discussed the possibility of Dallas drafting a true nose tackle and moving Jay Ratliff to defensive end in certain situations (and subsequently why we believe it is a poor idea). Ratliff proved he is not an elite defensive end and that his speed and quickness are his ticket to success only when he is lined up at the nose.
While we wouldn’t rule out the possibility of the Cowboys selecting a true nose tackle, we think it would come later in the draft. The first few selections will be expected to make a near-immediate impact. Since Ratliff plays nearly every snap at defensive tackle and moving him to end is not a legitimate option, the upside of a rookie NT would be limited.
Instead, we believe the Cowboys will be searching for a player who can line up at both tackle and end in their 3-4 system. We have already mentioned Penn State’s Jared Odrick, UCLA’s Brian Price, and Purdue’s Mike Neal as candidates for this job.
In this version of our “Potential Draft Picks” Series, we look at the possibility of Texas DT Lamarr Houston making the transition to 3-4 end.
At 6’3”, 305 pounds, Houston has size similar to current Cowboys’ defensive end Marcus Spears. Scouts at the Combine noted how little fat was evident on his frame. His 4.85 forty and 9’6” broad jump are exceptional for his size.
It is rather remarkable how much Houston has flown under-the-radar. He is a rather athletic individual (as shown by his Combine numbers) with great quickness. Of the DT/DE prospects we have studied thus far, Houston is the most like Ratliff. As is the case with Ratliff, he has a very high motor. He rarely disappears on film and there just is not much bad game tape on Houston. Coaches will love his consistency.
It is his lack of outstanding game film that may have him not rated as a top-tier tackle, but this could be due to the nature of Texas’ system more than anything.
Some people question whether Houston will fit better as a three-technique or five-technique player. For Dallas, he would be playing the latter, although we do think his similarities to Ratliff make him a candidate to also win the backup job inside at nose tackle.
For a big interior lineman, Houston also displays a wide range of pass-rush moves. If he can work on his run defense, he could become an excellent complement to Marcus Spears.
There are a few concerns about Houston’s character. He was arrested two years ago for a DWI and, although not necessarily a mark of character, Houston ran at the Combine in tights and bright yellow track shoes. Thus, if the Cowboys are not interested in players who draw attention to themselves, Houston may not be a good fit.
Houston’s stock has picked up a bit since the Combine, as he cemented himself as the top “second-tier” defensive tackle. Once regarded as a second or third round prospect, there are many draft analysts projecting him to go in the back of the first round. There is little chance he makes it to the end of round two, although with such a deep class, you never know.
For Dallas, selecting Houston in the first round just does not make sense. It would be poor value and there will be better options on the board at the time. If they trade into the early-to-mid second round, then Houston will become a legitimate option. Like we said, though, the grade the Cowboys give Houston will depend on how much of a character concern he is deemed.