Ezra Cleveland scouting report

Some of the top OT prospects in this draft looked outstanding at the Combine. The bad news for the Rams is all of those players will likely get drafted in the top half of the 1st round. Is there a potential LT candidate in a lower tier who might still be available for the Rams after the first round? One such prospect who might be climbing up draft boards after a good showing at the combine is Boise State tackle, Ezra Cleveland. Could he be a sleeper future franchise LT? Or could he even slide inside and be another solid prospect at guard or even center?

Will Justin Britt be on the market?

If the Rams want to pursue a veteran FA center this year, one player who potentially might become available at some point is Seahawks center, Justin Britt. He tore his ACL in the middle of last season, forcing the Hawks to play undersized Joey Hunt, who promptly did his best Brian Allen or Austin Blythe impression, making some good blocks with his quickness, but getting overpowered and pushed backwards by bigger defenders (posting a 56.5 PFF grade). Britt has a cap hit of about $11.4 million in 2020 on a 3 year deal he signed in 2017. He turns 29 in May. To save money on a player coming off of a serious injury, the Hawks potentially might release him to save cap money. Britt had his best season in 2016, right before he signed that new contract. Since that time, he hasn't played as well and Seattle will have to weigh both his chances of returning to health, as well as whether he can improve his performance level. Aaron Donald might not like having Britt on the team. In 2018, he drew the ire of AD with a cheap shot late hit in the back when AD was out of bounds.

Britt played tackle in college at Missouri. He was 6'6'' tall and had solid movement ability, but most draft experts saw him as only a swing backup tackle in the NFL and projected him to be a Day 3 pick in the second half of the draft, potentially even the late rounds. Instead, the Seahawks surprisingly made him a second round pick in 2014.

Playing initially at RT, then LG his first 2 seasons, Britt struggled as a pass blocker. After transitioning to center his 3rd season, Britt improved and the Hawks rewarded him with a 3 year $27 million contract. That $9 million salary pays him just under what Travis Frederick is making with the Cowboys on a deal Frederick signed just one year before Britt got his contract. Britt is no Travis Frederick. Britt has worked out better than other centers in his draft class, including Marcus Martin, Travis Swanson and Bryan Stork, so the Hawks at least got decent return for that 2nd rounder. Corey Linsley, a 5th round pick by GB, however, has been a superior center to Britt, signed his own 3 year deal soon after Britt got paid, with a lower salary ($8.5 million) and overall has turned out to be the better draft pick.

In some ways, Ezra Cleveland reminds me of Justin Britt. I think Cleveland is a better pass blocker at the LT position than Britt was in college. On the other hand, I think Britt was a better run blocker and projected better than Cleveland for a move inside to guard or center. I was very surprised that Britt was drafted so early. What does that mean for Cleveland? Should he be graded where Britt was originally projected to be selected closer to the 6th round range? Or should Cleveland be moved up, because might have similar potential to Britt?

Background and measurements (from Combine)

Redshirt Junior. 3 year starter at LT for Boise State. Wrestler and basketball player in high school. Played both defensive and offensive line in high school. Played most of last season in college battling turf toe injury. Blocked for Vikings RB Alexander Mattison.

6'6'' tall, 311 pounds, 33 3/8'' arms, 9'' hands

4.93 sec (40 time), 30 bench reps, 30'' vert, 111'' broad, 7.26 sec (3 cone), 4.46 sec (shuttle)

Those are very good workout numbers. Kolton Miller, for example, had an impressive combine in 2018. His numbers were:

4.91 sec (40 time), 24 bench reps, 31'' vert, 121'' broad, 7.24 sec (3 cone), 4.49 sec (shuttle)

Miller weighed 309 pounds, about the same as Cleveland, but benched less (Miller has longer arms, which makes it more challenging to do more reps) and ran nearly identically in the 40, 3 cone and shuttle. Miller was the 15th overall pick in the 1st round by the Raiders to be their starting LT. From a purely athletic standpoint, therefore, Cleveland tests in a range that would seem to make him an attractive candidate to develop into a LT.

Or, maybe he could be a RT. Brian O'Neill, who was the 62nd overall pick in 2018, also had strong combine numbers. He weighted 297 pounds at the combine. The Vikings have been playing him at RT and he has been solid for them.

ESPN ranks Cleveland as the 15th OT, 144th overall (the next tackles after him are Driscoll, Runyan and Adeniji), which would be about a 5th round pick. Sports Illustrated 11th OT (followed by Bartch, Trey Adams and Driscoll), which would roughly be a late 3rd to 4th rounder. CBSSports 98th overall (late 3rd to 4th). Kyle Crabbs 14th OT, 141st overall (5th round). Drafttek 13th OT, 123nd overall (4th rd). Walterfootball 22nd OT, round 4 to 6 (just behind Charlie Heck). PFF 88th overall prospect (3rd round). Matt Miller 4th round pick, 110th overall in his mock draft. Lance Zierlein gives him a 6.21 grade (good backup who could become starter). That grade is higher than Biadasz, Hennessy, Lewis, Lemieux, Bredeson and Ismael. It is also higher than the grades LZ gave to Joe Noteboom and Bobby Evans. I would roughly translate the grade to equate to about the 3rd to 4th round range.

If you make a composite of those rankings before the combine, it looks like 4th round would be the average. Since Cleveland had such a strong workout, I think even just a conservative bump would move him into the 3rd round. Since the Rams have a pick in the lower part of the 2nd round, then one in the lower part of the 3rd, should they want someone like Cleveland, they might have to debate whether to reach for him early in the 2nd, hope that he is still there in the 3rd, or move around with trades to meet in the middle.

Justin Britt was 6'6'', 325 pounds, 33.5'' arms, 10.25'' hands

5.19 sec (40), 23 bench reps, 27.5'' vert, 100'' broad, 8.14 sec (3 cone), 4.69 sec (shuttle)

Britt weight more, but he didn't test as well as Cleveland.

To try to eliminate Cleveland's turf toe injury as a factor, I watched games both from 2019 and 2018 to try to get a fairer sample for evaluating him.


Smoothly gets into pass set after snap. Good lateral movement ability, able to widen pass rushers. Wide stance in pass protection. Comes to balance well in stance and in time. Decent ability to mirror.

Moves quickly to second level. Adequate lateral movement for zone blocking plays. Can make seal blocks.

Aware to twists. Looks for work as pass blocker.

Enough change of direction to adjust to jukes by defender. Makes some quick combo blocks. Transitions well from going backwards to running forwards to get out for screens. Adequate as puller.

Consistent technique and disciplined hand placement. Average hand speed and hand fighting.


Finesse blocker. No power on double teams or combo blocks. Ends up being the nail, not the hammer. Plays at times like he's afraid of injuring the opponents. Too nice in approach, not enough hunger to sustain blocks. Wall off run blocker, doesn't generate movement. LBs can push him away with superior aggression. No hip snap. Gets stacked. Even on some seal blocks, doesn't do enough to stay engaged and sustain, allows defenders to slip away and get back into the action.

Allows defenders to get into his pads in pass pro. Got forklifted off ground as defender got under his pads. Weak punch, lacks effective length at LT position. Content to catch defenders, which causes anchor to be vulnerable. Plays short armed some pass blocks. Multiple times got beaten inside when defender pushes his right arm down.

Not aggressive or powerful in short yardage situations. Some short yardage plays his pads are too high. Others, he tries to stay low, but misses the defender. Rolls out of his stance some run plays. Sometimes gets pushed backwards.

Weak grip strength. Defenders shed him, disengage. Gives up secondary pass rushes. Shaky against push pull moves, not enough resistance to some swim moves. Lacks torque in hands. Hands sometimes miss or slide off LB at second level.

Not a quick twitch athlete. Narrow frame, not a wide body. While he does posses overall agility, he doesn't have enough functional flexibility and body control to make difficult blocks in short area. He loses balance sometimes if he has to turn quickly and adjust to the next defender.

Interviews not impressive.


Late round grade. Cleveland tested very well, but his game tape isn't overly impressive. Noteboom coming out of TCU was a more impressive LT prospect than Cleveland, and I believe I had a 4th round grade on Boom. Noteboom also wasn't a very physical blocker (one reason I didn't see him as a great candidate to move to guard), and there were areas where he could improve in technique, but I liked how he pass blocked better than Cleveland.

I also think that overall Charlie Heck is at least as good, possibly even a better prospect than Cleveland. Heck did not test nearly as good at the combine. He ran considerably slower, he didn't bench as much. To me, this is an example of how these "track and field" events at the combine don't necessarily translate to there being a noticeable difference on the football field. I imagine many NFL teams will move Cleveland up and Heck down after the combine. If so, I'd question whether that is truly warranted, especially if it results in a large gap in their draft projection (e.g. Cleveland being a 2nd to 3rd rounder, while Heck going to 6th to UDFA).

Justin Britt at Missouri wasn't as athletic on the field as Cleveland, but Britt was more aggressive and physical and had better hand speed. Problems he showed in pass protection continued with him into the early part of his NFL career, but some of the other attributes helped him move inside to a different position at center.

If I were Snead, I would be reluctant to pursue Cleveland early in the draft, because as long as Noteboom looks like he can resume his career coming back from his knee injury, I'm not sure Cleveland could actually beat him out head to head in a fair competition at tackle. Moreover, I don't think Cleveland projects to be suited to move inside to a different position as well as someone like Jack Driscoll. If that turns out to be correct, what does he actually add to the roster?

Bobby Evans isn't very quick, but he has power and aggression. He can anchor better. This gives him some versatility, because the Rams used him at RT and he can also play guard.

Similar to some of the other tackles and guards that I have given late round grades, due to their potential to be decent pass blockers, I think Ezra Cleveland has a chance to stick on a roster as a backup player, due to his good athleticism and decent pass blocking technique. I don't see him, however, as a developmental starting tackle in the NFL. One reason I had Noteboom grade where I did was I did think he had the potential to eventually be a starter, whether at RT or even at LT.

If LZ's draft grade holds and Cleveland gets drafted relatively early, ahead of other linemen such as Biadasz, Hennessy, Jackson and Bredeson, that would be 100% fine with me. Push those other guys down the board. As much as I want good athletes who test well, the game tape is more important to me and I just wasn't impressed enough with Cleveland to see him as an early round prospect.