Nov 22, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans inside linebacker Brian Cushing (56) celebrates a tackle against the New York Jets during the second half of a game at NRG Stadium. Houston won 24-17. Mandatory Credit: Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports
4. Brian Cushing – Linebacker, USC; 2009 1st round 15th overall
The USC linebacker corps heading into the 2009 draft included Rey Maulaluga, Clay Matthews and Brian Cushing, which was absolutely crazy. All three were considered to be great pro prospects and Maulaluga went to the Bengals with the 38th overall pick, Matthews went to the Packers with the 26th overall pick, but the first of the three chosen was Cushing with the 15th overall selection.
Cushing didn’t disappoint his rookie season, despite his failed drug test, which did put a damper on an otherwise amazing season. The linebacker won the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Award for his 133 tackle, four sack and four interception season.
Freak injuries have slowed down the athletic Cushing, but over the past two seasons he has slowly started to regain his old form after missing 11 games in 2012 and another nine in 2013. He has since been able to play 14 games in 2014 and the first 11 games of the 2015 season.
His play has always had a lot to do with Houston being known for being a stout defense, and also has a lot to do with the sudden defensive resurgence this season. His nose for the ball and ability to run sideline to sideline lands him high on our list.
Next: The wide out from Clemson