With sixth-round pick James Houston, Lions have a good 'problem'
Allen Park — Early last season, along his way to racking up 16.5 sacks for Jackson State, edge rusher James Houston picked up a nifty moniker. It's one the Detroit Lions wouldn't mind sticking after selecting Houston with the No. 217 pick of the sixth round of the 2022 NFL Draft.
"My nickname is ‘Da Problem," Houston said. "Back at Jackson State, some of the announcers, they just kind of came up with it. I was kind of wreaking havoc throughout my fourth game ... and they came up with 'Da Problem.' You know, 'Houston, we have a problem.'"
Houston is undersized for the edge, at 6-feet, 244 pounds, but compensates with 34 1/4-inch arms, an explosive first step and violent hands. It addition to the big sack total as a senior, he had a knack for knocking the ball loose from ball carriers, forcing seven fumbles in 2021.
"Turnovers, sacks, just game-changing plays, that’s my whole game," Houston said. "Obviously, I do focus a lot on making turnovers (and) hitting the ball out."
He also offers some intriguing versatility. Prior to transferring to Jackson State, Houston spent four years at Florida as an off-ball linebacker and special teams standout.
"I didn't know a lot about James as we were going through the fall process," Lions general manager Brad Holmes said. "Then, as he hit the all-star circuit and made some noise there, and we went on and so forth throughout the process, his name kept coming up and coming up. The scouts had a lot of buy-in with this player. Dave Sears, our college director, had a lot of passion about his evaluation and what he thought his potential could be."
The ability to add Houston also carries significance for Holmes, who played collegiately for another HBCU school, North Carolina A&T. The Lions GM has worked locally to promote the importance and value of those institutions.
Houston is also thrilled to be representing the school, saying the opportunity to play for an HBCU, as well as coach Deion Sanders, played a significant role in his decision to transfer there after graduating from Florida.
"Obviously, it being an HBCU, that also drew me there as well," Houston said. "My whole family, we come from HBCUs. Everybody from my immediate to my extended family has really been going to HBCUs. So, it was something I wanted to experience and it just kind of felt like the right time. I know me and Coach Prime, we all kind of had the same aspirations and same motivation to kind of kick this thing off, and I can’t be more excited that I’m his first prospect in the NFL and the first prospect in the SWAC."
Meet James Houston
College: Jackson State
Height/weight: 6-foot-1/241 pounds
Notable stats: After spending his first four years at Florida, Houston stuffed the stat sheet in his lone season with the Tigers: 70 tackles, 24½ tackles for loss, 16½ sacks and seven forced fumbles in 13 games.
Analysis: Houston piled up the production at an impressive rate in the SWAC. He’s instinctive and tough, and has potential as an aggressive, downhill linebacker who has a quick first step. Though he lacks ideal size, he has upside as a rusher and can be an asset on special teams.