With the NFL Scouting Combine in the books, the focus can return to scouting the players. With the talented quarterbacks flooding the NFL, teams will need to find as many talented defensive backs as possible to slow opposing offenses down. Dave Archibald examines safety DeAndre Houston-Carson in our latest scouting profile.
The Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) is hardly a football hotbed, but it appears to have produced a gem in William & Mary safety DeAndre Houston-Carson. The senior finished his decorated career as CAA co-Defensive Player of the Year, tallying 109 tackles and four interceptions for the Tribe. NFL teams took notice of the defender, inviting him to the Senior Bowl and the Combine. Not every Football Championship Series (FCS) standout gets to continue his career in the NFL, but Houston-Carson is virtually a lock to hear his name called in April’s draft.
Tale of the Tape
The chart below shows Houston-Carson’s measurement and performance in Combine drills, as well as the percentile rank of how these figures stack up to other safeties since 1999:
|Height||Weight||Arm Length||Hand Span||40-Yard||Vertical||Broad Jump||Short Shuttle||3-Cone|
Data from NFLCombineResults.com and NFL.com
Houston-Carson has adequate size and good speed, but his performance in the jumping and agility drills failed to match the explosiveness he often showed on film. His short arms are a mark against the idea of moving him back to corner at the NFL level.
Most of the draft sites peg Houston-Carson as a free safety, but he spent plenty of time closer to the line of scrimmage matched up in man-to-man coverage. Prior to his senior year, Houston-Carson primarily played cornerback, so he has extensive experience in man coverage. William & Mary was unafraid to use him in the slot or outside on receivers or tight ends. He showed good anticipation of routes and moves well downhill driving from off man coverage:
Some pundits like Houston-Carson’s fit at cornerback in the NFL, but he grabs too much and will need to adjust to the stricter illegal contact enforcement in the NFL. He has little experience in press coverage and his short arms suggest that he might struggle with the technique.
Run Defense / Tackling
Houston-Carson has decent size at 6’1”, 201 pounds and shows solid wrap tackling ability. He’s not going to de-cleat ball carriers but he’s no shrinking violet, showing willingness and ability to meet running backs head-on and make run stops. He’s a smooth mover heading downhill, chewing up ground with long strides and making it look easy:
He needs to refine his technique to defeat blocks. He takes too-aggressive angles at times and overruns plays charging in from deep zones, letting backs run by him into the open field. Houston-Carson plays with pride and something of a physical edge – he won’t be confused with Kam Chancellor, but he’s not afraid to stick his nose into piles or get an extra hit in.
The Tribe often used Houston-Carson as a deep centerfielder and he showed good aptitude in this arena. He showed good instincts and awareness of developing routes and the explosiveness to drive downhill and make plays:
Houston-Carson looked less comfortable in two-high-safety looks, playing a bit tentative and not showing the same nose for the ball. Some of this can likely be chalked up to inexperience in the safety role, but he will need to improve in this area, particularly if he joins a team that uses a lot of Cover 2 or Cover 2 Man schemes.
Houston-Carson played on several of William & Mary’s special teams units, serving as a gunner and safety on the kickoff team, gunner on the punt team, and edge rusher on the field goal block and punt block units:
He blocked nine kicks in his career for the Tribe, showing explosive speed and bend off the edge. In kick coverage, as in run defense, he can get out of control running downfield at top speed and miss tackles. Overall, special teams is an area where he can contribute immediately to an NFL team.
Houston-Carson was limited to nine games in 2014 with a wrist injury but has been otherwise healthy in his college career.
Houston-Carson’s mom likes the praise her son is receiving:
Houston-Carson played a variety of roles for William & Mary and his ideal NFL fit takes advantage of that versatility. He was effective in a conventional free safety role, but he can also make plays closer to the line of scrimmage in man-to-man coverage or run support. He’s still learning some of the nuances of the position, particularly in two-high concepts and with his angles in run support. If the team that drafts him likes him better as a cornerback prospect, he will have to refine his technique, particularly in press. As with all prospects, he will have to get used to the speed and athleticism of the pro game, but his learning curve will be steeper than most, coming from the FCS level. Even if it takes some time for Houston-Carson to find a role on defense, his special teams contributions will keep him on an NFL roster.
Footage courtesy of DraftBreakdown.com, except press coverage clip from Tim Bliss (@bigtbliss) and punt block clip from Youtube user “2016 NFL Draft.” Raw video cut by @JMPasq, Alex Sibo, and Aaron Aloysius (@AaronAloysius). Tulane game cut by CollegeFBDude.
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