Up, Down or Stay: Should Boise State OT Ezra Cleveland be ranked as a first-rounder?
At 6-foot-6, 311 pounds, Boise State offensive tackle Ezra Cleveland has the size teams are looking for in an offensive tackle. And, as he showed during the Combine, he’s one of the most athletic offensive linemen in the upcoming draft.
But if you might want to reconsider if you have Cleveland ranked as a first-round prospect in your customized On The Clock big board.
That’s not to suggest Cleveland won’t go on to have a very successful, 10-plus year career. And, if it weren’t for Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs and Louisville’s Mekhi Becton, Cleveland would have had the best Combine performance of any of the tackles.
His percentages, according to Mockdraftable:
- 40-yard dash: 4.93 (96th percentile)
- Broad jump: 111” (90th percentile)
- 3-cone drill: 7.26 (98th percentile)
- 20-yard shuttle: 4.46 (94th percentile)
- Bench press: 30 reps (83rd percentile)
Those numbers are enough to overlook Cleveland’s arm length (33 3/8-inches, 40 percentile) and his hand size (9 inches, 2nd percentile).
But, despite his bench press numbers, there’s one common theme among draft analysts when evaluating Cleveland: Does he have enough functional strength to survive at the next level?
One draft analyst, The Athletic’s Dane Brugler, had this to say about Cleveland after his Combine performance:
As expected, #BoiseState OT Ezra Cleveland tested outstanding. His athleticism is why he has a chance to be drafted top-40 overall. The numbers match the tape.
4.93 40-yd dash (3rd-best)
7.26 3-cone (1st)
4.46 short-shuttle (1st)
30 bench reps (5th)
— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) February 29, 2020
Brugler then mocked Cleveland to Tennessee at pick No. 29 overall in his post-Combine, three-round mock draft.
However, another draft analyst, Charlie Campbell of WalterFootball, came away with a vastly different opinion after he said he surveyed six NFL teams.
“In surveying six different teams, none of them had Cleveland graded as a first- or second-round pick. The teams were split, with three grading him in the fifth round and three grading him in the fourth round.”
The fourth- or fifth-round is probably too low for Cleveland – the position he plays alone should bump him up a round. But the first round may be too high of a projection. The better ranking for Cleveland is likely somewhere in the middle of the two contrasting reports.
Look at it this way: If Tennessee drafts Cleveland, his athleticism should serve him well against division rival Jacksonville and their stud, second-year pass rusher Josh Allen.
But if Cleveland faces division foes J.J. Watt of Houston or DeForest Buckner of Indianapolis, then that perceived lack of strength could be glaring.
Of course, no matter where Cleveland is drafted, he could still develop into a Pro Bowl player. And he can get stronger over time. But his perceived lack of strength is why he should probably be moved down your draft boards if you have him rated among the top 32 prospects.
Jake Rigdon (email@example.com) covers the NFL draft for Fanspeak and the On The Clock, which is the only NFL draft simulator that allows you to customize and use your own big board while giving you control over trades.