This morning we continue looking at the players the Kansas City Chiefs talked to at the Senior Bowl by checking out USC OLB Brian Cushing.
The #2 rated OLB by NFL Draft Scout ($$$) behind super star off season sensation Aaron Curry (who played in the ACC!), Cushing is a 6'3", 243 pound senior who played both inside and outside linebacker at times for USC, as well as defensive end. Cushing started the 2006 season at defensive end.
Arguably the draft's most versatile defender, it's not Cushing's stats that have NFL teams paying attention. In fact, it's most definitely not his stats. In 2008, Cushing had 73 tackles, 10.5 of those for a loss and three sacks. Not exactly the gaudy numbers you look for in a highly rated prospect but as we all know, it's not all about numbers.
If the Chiefs are looking to move to a 3-4 defensive system, then a linebacker who can play both inside and outside, as well as fill in at defensive end would be the ideal draft pick.
Highlights of USC's Brian Cushing
Expectantly, Cushing's draft positives describe an all around talent. From NFL Draft Scout:
Physical prototype with a combination of excellent size and overall athleticism for the position. Versatile. Signed with USC as a potential strong safety candidate, but has played defensive end, strong-side linebacker and even middle linebacker. Physical and intense. Big hitter who looks to intimidate opponents with his physicality in every phase of the game. Attacks blocks aggressively and flashes not only explosiveness but ferocity as a tackler. Good straight-line speed. Good flexibility to turn and run with tight ends and backs in coverage. Reads the quarterback well and can break on the ball. Productive pass rusher who is equally effective as an end and blitzing linebacker. Immediate standout performer who started for USC as a freshman.
With positives like that, what could his negatives possibly be? Injuries.
- 2005 - missed five games because of a separated shoulder
- 2006 - underwent shoulder surgery after the spring practices
2007 - missed three games because of a high ankle sprain; underwent knee surgery after the spring practices after sitting them out with a bad hamstring
- 2008 - no injuries; played in all 13 games
Along with the injuries, you always have that sneaking suspicion with USC players that mistakes are easily covered up by the other talent on the field. At the same time, it's tough to argue with the overall success that USC players have had in the NFL.
Even though by pretty much all accounts Cushing had a fantastic Senior Bowl this year, apparently the buzz in the stand was about his supplement use. Reports have said that Cushing spends thousands of dollars a month on nutritional supplements, which is not any indication of any illegal activity but has made scouts and personnel guys wonder if Cushing's ability is completely maxed out already.
Cushing is projected to go in the first round of the 2009 NFL draft, meaning that unless the Chiefs trade down, he likely will not become a Kansas City Chief. According to NFL Draft Scout, current Arizona Cardinal LB Karlos Dansby is a good comparison to Cushing.
Typically, when I hear a player described as versatile, that leads me to believe that they're not particularly good at one aspect of the game. I don't believe this is the case with Brian Cushing. His experience is exactly what you would want in a 3-4 linebacker. He can play inside. He can play outside. He can line up on the line of scrimmage. For a team possibly settling in to a new 3-4 defensive scheme, Cushing's versatility could be invaluable as the team gathers the appropriate personnel to fill the scheme.
Imagine building a 3-4 defense and having the luxury of pursuing either an outside or inside linebacker, whichever position you could fill first, because Cushing could play in whatever the open spot would be.
Will he be a Chief?
Likely, no. He will not be a Chief. Many draft boards have Cushing off the board by the 20th pick. The only way the Chiefs are able to get Brian Cushing is if we trade down with another team to teens of the first round.
More Senior Bowl draft prospect coverage: