Draft Buzz: Chris Houston

Charles Tillman and Nathan Vasher are a solid pair of cornerbacks. But each of them will be a free agent after the 2007 season, and re-signing both may be impossible. Arkansas corner Chris Houston is rising up draft boards and interviewed with the Bears at the NFL Combine. He will most likely be gone by the time GM Jerry Angelo picks at 31st, so might a deal be made to go get him?

Scout.com  recently reported that Arkansas defensive back Chris Houston had visits lined up with the Rams, Giants, Jets and Redskins in this TFY Draft Preview feature article. During my conversation with Houston early Saturday evening, he told me that he's added three more teams to his list since then. He'll also be making stops in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and New England.

At the moment, his first visit isn't until April 9th, so don't be surprised if more teams jump into the mix. He confirmed for me that in addition to many of the teams that have scheduled visits with him, he also had formal interviews at the Combine with the Bears, Cowboys, Broncos, Bengals, Texans, Cardinals, 49ers, Panthers, Dolphins, Ravens, Browns, Vikings, Raiders and Chargers. And as previously reported, he's had a personal workout with the Titans.

There's little to lose in the translation on this one. Chris Houston is one of the hot players in this year's NFL Draft.

In his 33 game appearances through his junior year at Arkansas, Houston made 70 tackles, forced 3 fumbles, grabbed 3 interceptions and broke up 21 passes. He's one of the true shutdown corners in this year's draft class.

And as you'll learn in our exclusive interview with him that will be published at Scout.com this week, he's a highly likeable guy with great character to boot.

Unless another club jumps in before April 9th, the talented cornerback, who is currently ranked No. 24 overall in Scout.com's rankings by NFL Expert Tom Marino, will start his NFL visits with a stop in Philadelphia on April 9th. He'd likely compete there during his rookie year for a nickelback role.

"The Eagles are actually in pretty good shape at cornerback but can use depth at the position since starters Lito Sheppard and William James have suffered various injuries over the past few seasons," says Chuck Hixson, editor of our Eagles site, WarNest.com. "Houston would provide some youth to go with a mostly veteran secondary."

(AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
One day later, the 5'10", 185-pound defensive back will visit the Rams before heading to New York on the 11th to visit the Giants. New York's secondary was such a weak spot last year that they finished 28th in the league in passing yards allowed. R.W. McQuarters appeared to do what he could, but beyond him, they had issues that need to be addressed.

After a few days off to catch his breath, Houston will head to New England on the 16th and will spend the day in Pittsburgh on the 17th. 

"Even though the Patriots franchised Asante Samuel, they still need to find another solid corner to avoid using 35-year old receiver Troy Brown on defense," says Jon Scott, publisher of our New England site, PatriotsInsider.com. "New England has struggled to field a healthy group of defenders in their secondary the past few seasons, forcing them to sign former system players off the street midseason such as Ray Mickens and Hank Poteat.

So the team has been busy scouting the top prospects at both safety and corner in the coming 2007 Draft. They're very likely to add at least one, probably both, in an effort to rebuild a long neglected unit on the team."

The Steelers' cornerback situation is simply a bit of a muddle heading into 2007 with Ike Taylor, Deshea Townsend and Bryant McFadden trying to prove to new head coach Mike Tomlin that he won't still be trying to figure out who his starters are midway through the season. Pittsburgh could use a young corner who could come in right away with the confidence to play, and Houston has that mindset.

The speedster out of Arkansas, who posted the only official pair of sub-4.4 forty-times by a defensive back at the Combine and led all defensive backs with 27 bench press reps, also has visits with the Jets and the Redskins planned. However, he didn't have confirmation of those dates as of yet. 

So out of the teams bringing him in for a visit so far, who is the most likely to spend their first-round pick on him? Look for the Giants (who also desperately need LB help), the Steelers (who could also go LB after the loss of Joey Porter), or the Patriots (if they don't see a receiver they like when they get to make their two picks in the first round) as the most serious suitors out of the teams he's got on his visits list so far. But after these teams meet Chris Houston and see what kind of person he is in addition to the level of talent they've seen him display on the field, the priorities of some of the others could shift.

Learn more about Chris Houston at his player profile page at Scout.com. And check back daily for our upcoming exclusive interview with this exciting NFL prospect!

A member of the Professional Football Writers of America, Ed Thompson's NFL and college football player interviews and features have been published across the Scout.com network and syndicated through FoxSports.com's NFL team pages.


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