It’s always a treat evaluating collegiate players who turned into NFL prospects because there are endless aspects to consider, which include but aren’t limited to potential and value. These two aspects weighed heavily in the debate for me when I evaluated then-New Mexico St. cornerback Davon House prior to the 2011 NFL Draft.
Potential is a tricky word, because no matter how much raw talent House had, there was always the chance he could turn out a bust. That boom/bust scenario would be magnified if he was a higher pick and I gave House a second round grade, but he went in the fourth to the Green Bay Packers when they selected him 131st overall. The Packers got good value with House, I thought, because he displayed quality raw talent.
He had very good size at nearly 6’1″ and 200 pounds and ran well with a time of 4.44 in the 40-yard dash. On tape, he used his long arms to reroute wide receivers very well and he displayed the ability to locate and attack the ball in the air well. He also proved that he could plant his foot into the ground and drive downhill after backpedaling. Despite being rather tall and lanky for the position, he was not high-cut as most cornerbacks are with his size, and he had relatively good fluidity. House was also willing to stick his nose into the running game and bring down ball carriers, which not all cornerbacks are willing to do nowadays.
However, he was raw. He needed to drop his pad level when backpedaling, and his footwork needed to be cleaned up. The issues were fixable, so I gave him a high-round grade. The Packers may or may not have — we’ll more than likely never find out — but they did select him, and in his first season he was non-existent.
He was still on the roster, of course, but it’s like he wasn’t because he was constantly injured. He only appeared in two games in 2011 and he didn’t notch any impressive statistics. Now it’s (almost) a different story. Per multiple reports, House has been healthy and one of the best cornerbacks on the Packers’ roster, which has led to him just about wrapping up the No. 2 cornerback job. In the team’s first preseason game against the San Diego Chargers, he showed why I gave him a second-round grade.
In the first quarter, House lined up straight-across from Chargers veteran receiver Malcolm Floyd, who was a part of the Chargers’ 21 (2 backs, 1 tight end) spread personnel.
At the snap, Floyd released outside from his tight split and looked to attack House outside the numbers and vertically. However, as House opened his hips up to turn and run with Floyd, he extended his long left arm and knocked the receiver off-balance before also grabbing him near his shoulder pad, which is legal within five yards.
Once House is done re-routing Floyd, it comes down to foot speed and timing, which are simple aspects of playing cornerback, but skills that many struggle with. A big reason for those struggles is that young CBs often have poor timing and haven’t developed an understanding of when to locate the ball. In this case, House shows good timing and ball location. But before that, he catches up to Floyd.
House showed the foot quickness to catch up to Floyd on this play, which was illustrated by him eventually ending up shoulder-to-shoulder with the receiver. This is where House shows improvement and is error-free because he doesn’t turn his head before he catches up to Floyd, instead turning after when he is shoulder-to-shoulder and isn’t a step behind. Many cornerbacks will end up turning their head too early, consequently losing ground and getting beaten over the top.
Finally, the ball is coming down and House is looking to make a play on it while also attempting to prevent Floyd from making the big catch. He does this by slightly leaning into the Chargers receiver to block him out toward the sideline and then going up to track the ball. Ultimately, the throw is poorly placed from the quarterback, but it doesn’t take anything away from House, who showed physicality, timing, and technique, all of which led to a pass breakup.
Later in the game, House displayed the willingness to get physical in run support that he showed in college when he came downhill and took down ball carriers twice, one of which was very impressive. Unfortunately, House was later injured on a special teams play in the third quarter and is expected to misstwo-to-three weeks, according to Weston Hodkiewicz of the Green Bay Post-Gazette.
That’s not a long term injury which will hinder his progress. With rehab, House will be back to show his potential and what a great value he was for the Packers when they selected him in the fourth round of the 2011 NFL Draft.
Lead pic via Gridiron Fans