Houston Texans Draft picks
Round 1...#15...Brian Cushing, LB, USC
6' 3" / 243 lbs.
Strengths: versatile, Aggressiveness, Pass Rush, School
Weakness: Durability, Overaggressive, Performance Enhancers
The 2009 Senior Bowl was the perfect showcase for three Trojan linebackers and all three made the most of it. ILB Rey Maualuga, the trio’s headliner, Clay Matthews, who is a hybrid LB/DE, and Brian Cushing, who signed with USC as a strong safety but outgrew the position, all appear to be potential first round picks in April’s draft.
Cushing could prove to be the one with the longest career. He started as a true freshman and has played DE, SLB and MLB over his career, not to mention playing RB and TE in high school, and that versatility has really won him the respect of scouts and opponents alike. His statistics will not blow you away (73 tackles, 10.5 TFL, 3 sacks in 2008 as a starter) but he’s been a steady, consistent performer for USC and makes those around him better and vice versa.
One thing that has become obvious over the years, and especially in basketball, is that role players on great teams are not necessarily great players. The system, the coaching staff and the talent around them make them better. One example is Malik Rose, a huge part of the San Antonio Spurs first couple of NBA championships; he signed a monster contract with the Knicks I believe and he’s been a bench player ever since. I’m not saying that is the case with Cushing, but the talent around him has certainly played a large part in how good he looks on film.
Cushing is an aggressive, intense customer that does a great job of bringing his body through the ball carrier on tackles and has an intimidation factor along with Maualuga. He doesn’t hit to make a tackle; he hits because he likes too. The harder the better. His aggressiveness comes out when taking on blockers as well. Cushing combines athletic ability and upper body strength to fight off blocks and is never truly out of a play until the whistle blows. He played a little offense in high school and that has helped him become reliable in coverage. He can run with almost anyone and gets to the flats quickly to cover screens. He’s not above giving the TE a little extra just to say “you won’t outrun me and you won’t out-physical me”. As a pass rusher, Cushing is an effective blitzer from LB, closes quickly and looks to destroy the QB.
His injury history is worrisome. He seems like a player who will give a team around 13 games a year. They may be 13 great games, but teams will have to decide if 13 games out of 16 is worth a first round pick. Cushing separated a shoulder in 2005, sprained an ankle in 2007 and has had serious surgeries on his shoulder (2006) and knee (2007) during spring practices. He started all 13 games in 2008.
Other than a slight concern about how much the talent at USC made him look better than he may be and his lengthy injury history, his only other on field concern is a bit of over aggressiveness that will take him out of position on occasion. But some off-field issues have popped up in conjunction to Cushing. It has been reported that he spends upwards of $1,000 a month on nutritional supplements. It appears that fellow Draftdog writer Brian Dietzler may have hit close to the mark with his original write up of Cushing before the season started. There’s a big difference between supplements and steroids but what happens if he finds himself maxed out already?
Cushing is certainly in consideration for a mid- to late-first round pick but his history of injuries may keep him in the late 1st or push him into the second. Teams will have trouble overlooking a guy that can play all three LB spots, play a little defensive end and could be perfect for an elephant LB/S kind of role. He could do more in 13 games a year than some high picks do in a career.
Round 2...#46... Connor Barwin TE/LB Cincinatti
Round 3...#77... Antoine Caldwell C Alabama
Round 3...#89 (from patriots)... Jared Cook TE South Carolina
Round 4...#112... Glover Quin CB New Mexico
Round 4...#122 (from Vikings)... Anthony Hill TE North Carolina
Round 5...#152... James Casey TE Rice
Round 6...#188... Brice McCain DB Utah
Round 7...#223... Troy Nolan S Arizona St