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Parish duo hoping to be picked in NFL Draft

Kyle Riviere
kriviere@weeklycitizen.com
Gonzales Weekly Citizen

This is the week that the dreams of 254 young men will become a reality as they’re selected in the NFL Draft.

This season, Ascension Parish natives are among that legion of dreamers, hoping to have their names called and join an exclusive fraternity of other standouts from the area that have been picked in the NFL Draft—names that include Glenn Dorsey, Eric Reid and Landon Collins.

This year, Dutchtown alum Lloyd Cushenberry and Donaldsonville alum Stephen Sullivan are hoping to follow in their footsteps.

Both players were a part of LSU’s extraordinary 2019-2020 national championship season.

Cushenberry was the starting center. He was part of a Tiger offensive line that won the Joe Moore Award in 2020, which is awarded to the best offensive line in the country.

He ended his career with the Tigers making 28 consecutive starts.

The redshirt junior also earned second-team All-American honors from both the AFCA and FWAA.

At the NFL Draft Combine in February, he measured out at 6-foot-3 and 312 pounds.

Cushenberry did 25 reps of 225 pounds. This ranked him in the top 15 for offensive linemen.

For the 40-yard dash, he ran a 5.27. Unfortunately, during that run, he suffered a hamstring injury that prevented him from taking part in any of the other drills.

Still, Cushenberry has been highly-regarded heading into this week’s draft. His draft projections have been all over the place.

R.J. White of CBS Sports ranks Cushenberry as the 45th-best prospect in the draft and the seventh-best offensive lineman. His mock draft has the Pittsburgh Steelers taking Cushenberry in the second round with the 49th overall pick.

“The Steelers would do well to inject some talented youth on the offensive line, and Cushenberry is a potential long-term successor for Maurkice Pouncey at center. He’s worth giving a shot at guard until that time comes,” White said.

But Atlanta Falcons beat writer D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution thinks even more highly of Cushenberry. He projects that Cushenberry will be selected by the Falcons in the first round with the 16th overall pick.

Bucky Brooks of NFL.com has Cushenberry listed as the top center in the draft.

Unlike Cushenberry, Sullivan came out of nowhere.

He had a breakout season at LSU as a junior. He was second on the team in receiving yards with 363.

However, for his senior season, he was forced to make the transition to tight end. As a backup to Thaddeus Moss, Sullivan's production went down dramatically. He finished the year with 12 catches for 130 yards.

But scouts fell in love with him at the Senior Bowl. Sullivan blew them away with his 85-inch wingspan, and he performed very well at the practices throughout the week.

His performance at the NFL Combine only helped his draft stock.

Sullivan measured out at 6-foot-5 and 248 pounds.

His 4.66 in the 40-yard dash tied Purdue's Brycen Hopkins for second-best among tight ends. His vertical jump of 36.5 inches tied Portland State's Charlie Taumoepeau for second-best in his position group. Finally, his broad jump of 10 feet and three inches tied Notre Dame's Cole Kent for second among tight ends.

NFL analyst Lance Zierlein said of Sullivan, “He's a big receiver with the body type and contested-catch toughness to make a transition to a big flex tight end role.”

CBS Sports currently has Sullivan ranked as the 13th-best tight end in the draft and the 214th-best overall prospect.

If that rank is shared by NFL teams, Sullivan should expect to hear his name called in sixth or seventh round of the draft.