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NFL Draft grades: Evaluating the Detroit Lions’ selection of James Houston

The Lions added another linebacker with their other 6th round selection, but he has an exciting profile.

NCAA Football: East/West Shrine Game Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Lions have selected linebacker James Houston with the 217th overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. If there was any indication that the Lions wanted to improve their pass rush, look no further than this draft class. Following the selection of Aidan Hutchinson and Josh Paschal, the Lions added yet another pass rusher with Houston.

My grade: C+

While the Lions had just drafted another linebacker, Houston is different from Malcolm Rodriguez. Houston was a pass rusher at Jackson State, notching an incredible 16.5 sacks last season. He also has experience as an inside linebacker, having played there while at Florida. Houston has a great athletic profile, including incredible explosion numbers. The Lions’ pass rush was subpar last season, so the addition of three pass rushing rookies should bolster their results.

While the sack total and athleticism are promising, I am curious about his role. He had his most success as an edge, but he projects better as a linebacker in the NFL—where will he play? Curiously, the Lions listed Houston as a linebacker in one tweet, then an edge in another. A media account is far from definitive, but it is worth noting.

On top of Hutchinson and Paschal, the Lions already have Romeo and Julian Okwara, Charles Harris, and Austin Bryant as their top pass rushers. At linebacker, Houston joins Rodriguez, Derrick Barnes, Alex Anzalone, Jarrad Davis, and Chris Board, among others.

Houston’s path to the roster looks easiest at linebacker, but it’s a position he hasn’t played since his days at Florida. Can he transition back? His versatility as a pass rusher could mean a dynamic role, perhaps similar to the role we saw from Davis under ex-coach Matt Patricia. Even with my concerns about where he slots into the roster, Houston adds some much-needed talent to the front seven—it’s a good Problem to have:

With Houston in the fold, players like Austin Bryant and Shaun Dion Hamilton are firmly on the roster bubble. Preseason will be crucial to determining the final few defenders on the team.

The 217th pick is good value for Houston, but the logjam on defense prevents me from grading this too highly. If the Lions wanted a linebacker, there were more experienced options (JoJo Domann, Mike Rose, Jack Sanborn). If the Lions wanted a pass rusher, it would mean stocking up on an already deep position.

I understand the value that comes with a player that can do both, but I’m a bit hesitant to bump it up to a B. Houston has a high ceiling, however, so this could turn into a steal if he pans out.


Grade the selection of James Houston

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