Chris Houston was supposed to be the answer at cornerback for the Atlanta Falcons. It's funny, in a way, that Houston came in part to supplant giant disappointment Jimmy Williams, and he'll be leaving with many seeing him as a disappointment in his own right.
The busy Adam Schefter reported yesterday that Houston is headed to the Detroit Lions, with the Falcons getting the second pick in the sixth round and swapping up 17 spots in the fifth round. It's probably the best haul the Falcons could reasonably be expected to get for the corner, whose talent was greater than his production over the course of the last three seasons in Atlanta. But is trading him the right move?
The answer is obviously going to depend on where you're coming from with the great Chris Houston debate, but it's clear that it was the right move for management. They believe Dunta Robinson is better than Chris Houston, but they're similar enough cornerbacks that it wouldn't make a lot of sense to keep both around. Chris Owens or Brent Grimes are going to be the starter opposite Robinson, and that had been clear for a long time. Either is a better fit as a ballhawking nickel cornerback than Houston, who has only picked three passes in three seasons.
It also gives the Falcons better draft position in the fifth round and an additional pick in the sixth round. Over Thomas Dimitroff's tenure, he's hit on Kroy Biermann and arguably Garrett Reynolds in the fifth and whiffed on Robert James and William Middleton. In the sixth round, he's gotten the Falcons Thomas Brown and Spencer Adkins. Biermann was obviously a fantastic pick, but the rest either haven't panned out or just haven't gotten enough playing time yet. It's not exactly the place where dreams are usually made, but Dimitroff likes to have extra picks to play with, and Houston's recent spate of injuries and ineffectiveness made this the best haul the Falcons could get.
And me? I think Chris Houston got a terrible rap in Atlanta—I was waving that banner for a long time myself—and it's a shame that he should be kicked to the curb for so little. The NFL is a game of production first and foremost, and while he was a little better than average in coverage in 2009, he really never had a head for where the ball was going to be and he had that infuriating habit of never looking back for it, either. He was, in many ways, an average cornerback in the body of a man who could be a great one. I suspect he always will be.
So at the end of the day, this was jettisoning a man who was never as good as he was supposed to be, to make way for a plethora of young cornerbacks the new administration has brought on board themselves and to allow the team to properly showcase their new prize, Dunta Robinson. By getting rid of Houston, the team is gambling that he'll never put it together the way he ought to have, and they're gambling the movement of draft picks will help the team. It's another gamble from Dimitroff, but one that we have to trust will work. The alternative isn't so great.