Perhaps the best piece of Day 2 draft business pulled off by GM John Elway was to bag a major steal at pick 83 when LSU center Lloyd Cushenberry fell in his lap. The former Tigers' team leader and longtime starter appears to have all the vital attributes to put him in a position to become the Denver Broncos' starting center right from the get-go.
The 22-year-old’s prolific collegiate career, where he was part of a group that won the coveted Joe Moore Award as the nation's best offensive line, was always going to see him get chosen by an NFL team at some point during the draft. The selection process is traditionally harsh on centers as they often find themselves being undervalued — not that Elway was overly worried about that when the Cushenberry slipped into round three.
Now that he has landed with the Broncos, Cushenberry will be now placed in the hands of legendary O-line coach Mike Munchak. The rookie has gotten off to a running start in his pro development having worked with former Broncos' coach James Cregg, who ended up at LSU after coaching in Denver from 2014-16. The center was quick to praise his former mentor and the entire LSU coaching staff who have made him an NFL level player.
“The best staff in the country, every meeting, every day was like a pro meeting," Cushenberry told Broncos TV. "As coach always says, you know we have a lot of guys on our staff who have spent time in the NFL. The offensive line coach, James Cregg at LSU like I say, he was at the Broncos for a little bit, his meetings were pro-style, professional every day."
Having anchored an offensive line that went undefeated, won a national championship and having helped Joe Burrow win the Heisman trophy only to become the No. 1 overall NFL Draft pick, Cushenberry will be tasked with replacing Connor McGovern at the pivot point in Denver. The 6-foot-4, 315-pound center remained in the dark about the Broncos, even after spending time on the phone to Munchak in the build-up to the draft.
“Honestly, it didn’t really set in until I looked down and I saw my phone ringing. I had no clue where I was going, when I was going," Cushenberry said on Friday. "I was just waiting, just anxious to get that call, I am just so thankful it was the Denver Broncos."
Cushenberry will now be given every opportunity to compete with Patrick Morris for the starting job, especially with the news that big free-agent acquisition Graham Glasgow will be staying at his more natural position at right guard. If Cushenberry is to make the job his own in the middle of the rebuilt Denver O-Line, he will have to soak up all the information that Munchak will be putting his way.
“I’m pretty sure he’s going to present me with all the tools to be as best as I can, and be a great center in this league,” the freshly minted Bronco said of his new position coach.
It’s no secret that Elway and the Broncos were looking to find a plug-and-play option at some point during the draft; if they have indeed found the answer in round three, it will represent outrageous value. Finding an intelligent pivot that can make all the right line calls and keep new franchise QB Drew Lock safe was a problem that could have cost a lot more than just a third-round pick.
Broncos Country is now applauding a notable draft-day steal by their GM, but with issues at both tackle spots still a potential problem, Elway is fully aware that there is still a lot of work yet to be done. At least in tandem with the sixth-round selection of Fresno State's Netane Muti, the interior of the line has been beefed up and looks on paper to be a unit that can start dominating opponents in the very near future.