Believe or not, defensive end Lamarr Houston is the best player on the Oakland Raiders’ 2013 roster.
Some might think it’s running back Darren McFadden while others might argue that strong safety Tyvon Branch holds that designation. Make no mistake, though; Houston is the Raiders’ top dog when it comes to talent.
A three-year NFL veteran and former second-round pick, Houston has slowly developed into the Raiders’ top defensive lineman. While Oakland decided to part ways with several of their talented-yet-overpaid defensive lineman this offseason, they retained Houston in hopes that he could take that next step towards becoming a top-tier talent.
For the Raiders, there’s plenty of reason to believe that Houston will make the jump this upcoming season.
Throughout the 2012 season, Houston did nothing but impress. Although he got off to a slow start, he caught on as the year went along, finishing with four-straight stellar performances to cap the campaign. When it was all said and done, he had racked up 58 total tackles, five sacks and a forced fumble. He also added 35 hurries as a pass rusher.
According to Pro Football Focus, Houston finished the year with a 16.5 overall rating, finishing as the No. 9 defensive end in the NFL out of 62 eligible players. His biggest impact came against the run (17.0 rating), but he also did a solid job while rushing the quarterback and showed significant improvement from 2011.
While consistency is still a concern, Houston has quickly asserted himself as a dominant force along the Raiders’ defensive front. It may be comparing apples and oranges, but No. 99 has proven himself to be a better overall talent than McFadden and Branch and is on the verge of becoming one of the NFL’s best at his position.
The Raiders are headed for a long, grueling season in 2013. Having Houston wreaking havoc at defensive end will definitely help ease the pain, though.