-Hasn’t produced to this point
-Mediocre pre-play focus
-Poor quickness off the ball
-Doesn’t get great leverage
-Not much strength
-Looks skinny on film
-Can’t disengage from blocks
USC defensive end Wes Horton is one of the more overrated prospects of the draft. His length and quickness ooze potential, but, bottom line, there is absolutely no good reason he hasn’t made the most of his potential to this point in his career. Injuries were a valid excuse. But there is no excuse for his mediocre play in 2011.
Horton has solid measurables. He has good height at 6’5, average bulk for a defensive end at 265lbs, and good speed for his size with a 4.77 40 (he looks faster on film). It’s also easy to tell on film alone that he has extremely long arms, though he looks much skinnier than 265lbs on film. He could pass for 245lbs. Still, Horton has pretty good measurables.
Horton has very poor stats. Injuries were always an acceptable excuse for Horton’s poor plays. But that excuse lost its validity in 2011, in which Horton played 12 games, garnering a mere 22 tackles, 4.5 TFL’s, and 4 sacks. The guy was an every down player. Think about it. An every down player who got 18 tackles not counting his sacks, so pretty much 18 tackles on run plays. I haven’t seen tackle numbers like that since Dwight Freeney. However, Horton didn’t have the pass rushing production to make up for it, so he was pretty useless according to his stats last year.
Horton is an ineffective pass rusher. No one can rely on quickness alone and expect to consistently create pressure against the quarterback unless said person is named Dwight Freeney. Horton in no exception. The ironic thing? Horton doesn’t even have much quickness off the ball. Quickness off the ball is a combination of two things; reacting to/anticipating the snap quickly and accelerating quickly. Horton does not react to the snap of the ball quickly, but he does accelerate very quickly and he has excellent short area quickness. Beyond that, his fundamentals also suck. He has extremely long arms, but he doesn’t make the most of them because he doesn’t use his hands well at all, he has no strength, and he can’t get good leverage against linemen on pass plays. He’s too stiff in the waist to stay low while rushing the quarterback, and he could dominate with his long arms but his fundamentals are currently terrible and he doesn’t have the strength the move the arms of offensive linemen. As of right now, he is useless as a pass rusher, but there still is potential here.
Horton is pretty much useless against the run. Let’s remember, Horton made 22 tackles in 12 games last season. Not counting his 4 sacks, that’s about 18 tackles on run plays in 12 games. He was an every down player too. He just couldn’t produce. It was pretty mind boggling. Horton’s instincts are terrible, he lacks strength, he can’t make tackles in traffic, he doesn’t have much toughness as a tackler, he doesn’t put his long arms to good use as a tackler, he takes poor angles to the ball, he can’t get good leverage and stay low to save his life, his fundamentals are poor, and he can’t disengage from blocks to save his life. However, he has good range. Needless to say, I think he’s essentially useless against the run.
No one should rule out the idea that Horton plays 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL. He has excellent range, great body control, and loose hips, all of which could help him at linebacker in the NFL. His range will help him on run plays and his fluidity means that he can hold his own in coverage. Still, even at 3-4 outside linebacker, don’t expect Horton to produce until he improves his hand usage, fundamentals, and on field intensity.
My biggest problem with Horton, in general, are his poor fundamentals. The big problem I have with his fundamentals is that, unlike a few other players, he has no excuse for the terrible fundamentals he uses. I’ve scouted guys that uses poor fundamentals in college because they played at small schools and weren’t very well coached (Jared Allen). That’s a decent excuse. I’ve seen guys who use poor fundamentals because they have virtually no experience playing football (Jason Pierre Paul and Jimmy Graham only played 1 year of FBS football). Horton doesn’t fall into either of those categories. There is no excuse for him being as raw a prospect as he currently is. He has the help one of the best coaching staffs in the nation at USC, he has been playing football non-stop for years, yet his fundamentals are still pretty terrible. That pretty much means one of three things; either he is lazy, dumb, or the proper fundamentals of football just don’t feel natural for him. No matter what, it’s not good. I don’t see him making improvements anytime soon to correct his poor fundamentals simply because I don’t see why he couldn’t have done it in the past. I doubt Horton will ever improve his fundamentals.
Overall, I don’t like Horton. I don’t think he is going to be a good player in the NFL since I don’t think he is ever going to stop underachieving. It’s unlikely he’ll ever improve his terrible fundamentals since he hasn’t been able to do so in the past.
NFL Comparison: Everson Griffen with less strength, but more length
Grade: 68 (worthy of an early fourth round pick)
Projection: 80 (will be a late second to early third round pick)