The Falcons are squared away at the center position about as well as any team in the National Football League, with future Hall of Famer Alex Mack. However, Mack is no spring chicken at 33 years old. I firmly believe he has some quality seasons ahead of him, but with no proven starter at left guard, the Falcons may look to pick the best interior linemen available. Lloyd Cushenberry of LSU is a player who could fit that mold, serving as a starter on day one at left guard and a potential center of the future down the road.
Cushenberry was just a three-star recruit out of high school and originally committed to the Mississippi State Bulldogs, but the Tigers swooped in and gave him a last-minute offer. He had to redshirt as a freshman and played sparingly the following season. However, he emerged as a starter as a sophomore and shortly became LSU’s best offensive lineman the past two seasons, which is quite a title, as LSU’s offensive line won the Joe Moore Award for the best unit in the country last season. Joe Burrow deserves a ton of the credit, and he should undoubtedly be the first overall pick in this year’s Draft, but he can thank Lloyd in part for his success and the team becoming National Champions.
In 2019, Cushenberry was the recipient of one of the number 18 jerseys for LSU (though he technically wore it on a patch on his uniform), along with K’Lavon Chaisson. This number is handed out each season to a player who exemplifies what LSU tries to represent as a program. It was only the second time in the program’s history that two players received the number, and the first time it had ever been given to an offensive lineman. He was named a team captain as well.
Cushenberry has trended up during the draft process, despite suffering an injury during the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. He now projects to be a prime target in the mid-second round range, where the Falcons own a selection at 47th overall. Size surely is not an issue with Cushenberry at 6’4″, 312 pounds. But despite being a massive human being with more length than your average center, he is quite athletic and has terrific awareness, giving him the ability to make critical blocks out in space. Cushenberry has a flexible lower half, excellent body control, and a ton of strength, along with enormous hands and long arms to boot.
Even more encouraging — if you were to nitpick anything about his game, it would be his hand and footwork — two areas that are fixable with NFL coaching. With no red flags that stick out on or off the field, given the upside, Cushenberry could be a terrific second-round selection for Atlanta. That is… if some team doesn’t snag him before then. He would immediately become the favorite to start at left guard, where he projects to be a quality player and can learn the ropes before having to take on the responsibility of being a center. If he can provide an impact from day one, the Falcons will have the personnel to potentially claim the NFL’s best offense in football in 2020.
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