One of John Elway’s last Day Two picks, Lloyd Cushenberry III was drafted in the third round (83rd overall) of the 2020 NFL Draft. Fresh off of a National Championship at LSU, Cushenberry was inserted into the starting lineup as a rookie and hasn’t left that spot. However, that might change in 2022.
#79 Lloyd Cushenberry III
Weight: 315 lbs
Experience: 3 years
How he fits with the Broncos in 2022
Cushenberry has hardly left the lineup the last two seasons, playing over a thousand snaps in 2020 and 2021. He’s been an Iron Man, and from that aspect, the pick has panned out. However, Cushenberry’s play has been...pretty poor both seasons, and he’s not proven he can handle being an effective pass protector in the middle. He joins Jets’ center Connor McGovern in the auspicious category of being the only center to allow 4+ sacks in each of the last two seasons. He’s missed a slew of blitz pickups and has had plenty of other general pass protection miscues, despite his apparent success at Kahoot.
I’d like to say his run blocking is better, but it’s still well below-average. He’s struggled generating movement since entering the NFL, and his miscues have busted runs consistently. Per Sports Info Solutions, Cushenberry had a blown run block of 3.4%, good for 9th-worst among all NFL centers in 2021. For reference, Corey Linsley and Creed Humphrey had a .6% and .8% respectively. His run stuff percentage of 1.2% was 8th-worst among centers, as well.
Cushenberry also isn’t much of a scheme fit for Nathaniel Hackett’s outside-zone offense. That’s an offense that requires better athleticism from the center spot than Cushenberry has to offer. Cushenberry was drafted for Shurmur’s inside zone/power blend offense, not this one.
That does present a potential reason for Cushenberry to stay on the team as the starter at center. Graham Glasgow is the other answer at center, and he’s not exactly a perfect fit either. The team drafted Luke Wattenberg, a much better scheme fit, in the fifth round of the 2022 NFL Draft, but they likely aren’t going to throw him into the fire early. Granted, the team could simply just decide to start Quinn Meinerz at center, the position they drafted him to play, and solve the issue. However, if they are set at keeping Meinerz at right guard, Cushenberry might be the more appealing option to stay as the starting center given his youth.
I wrote after the 2022 NFL Draft that Cushenberry should feel some heat on his roster spot. Luke Wattenberg might be practicing at different spots, but he’s the backup center for 2022/potential long-term answer there. Paton drafted him, something he didn’t do for Cushenberry. Graham Glasgow is simply too good to leave on the bench, and the new staff has taken to Quinn Meinerz quickly. Cushenberry has only played center, so he doesn’t have the swing ability of Glasgow to keep him around. There’s not a lot of roster spots there.
In my opinion, Cushenberry is one of the Broncos’ prime players I’d envision gets moved for draft capital in the 2023 NFL Draft. It won’t be for much, but Paton’s repeated his desire for extra draft capital and they’ll need it following the Russell Wilson trade. While there’s a path to him starting, the numbers game and previous tape is tough to overlook.