Kansas City Chiefs outside linebacker Justin Houston earned one of the most surprising rankings in NFL Network's "Top 100 Players of 2013" list, coming in at No. 49, one spot ahead of Seattle Seahawks All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman.
Tamba Hali has the name, but Houston had the game in 2012.
Viewed as a first-round talent, Houston dropped to the Chiefs in the third round of the 2011 NFL Draft because of rumors of a failed drug test. The former Georgia star managed just two quarterback hits and three hurries in his first 11 NFL games, but he has been on a tear ever since. Bolstered by a three-sack breakout game against the Chicago Bears in Week 13 of 2011, Houston has collected 13 sacks and 57 quarterback pressures over his last 20 games.
Not just a one-dimensional pass rusher, Houston also placed third in run stops (28) last season while finishing fourth overall among "3-4" outside linebackers in Pro Football Focus' metrics.
Houston has made a believer out of veteran bookend edge rusher Hali, a two-time Pro Bowl selection.
"I love getting sacks, and we're going to compete on that note," Hali recently said of Houston. "As an athlete, I can't compete with the kid. He's that much better."
Appearing on NFL Network's "Top 100 Players of 2013 Reactions Show" on Thursday night, Houston said he was "very excited and pleased" to know that other players think that highly of his game.
Although the top 50 ranking might be a tad premature, it's not outlandish that Houston made the list. We just take exception to his placement ahead of difference-makers such as Sherman, Jared Allen and Ben Roethlisberger.
Follow Chris Wesseling on Twitter @ChrisWesseling.