Friday, April 24, 2020

Could Ezra Cleveland follow the Brian O'Neill developmental track?

The Vikings have a history of developing athletic offensive tackles. Boise State's Ezra Cleveland is the perfect left tackle for Minnesota's staff to work with. Daniel House analyzes the team's second-round selection!

The Vikings have a track record of developing athletic offensive tackles. Right tackle Brian O'Neill, a second-round pick in 2018 (No. 62 overall), shattered the combine testing metrics. In less than two years, Minnesota quickly turned him into one of the best right tackles in the NFL. Now, another rookie tackle is set to follow a similar path.

With pick No. 58, the Vikings landed the most athletic offensive tackle in the draft class. Boise State's Ezra Cleveland tested in the 90th percentile of many key metrics. His agility and movement skills will fit Minnesota's zone-blocking scheme perfectly. Cleveland is 75 percent comparable to O'Neill's testing metrics, according to MockDraftable. 

The biggest question is how quickly he transitions to the NFL. O'Neill weighed just 297 pounds when he was selected by the Vikings in 2018. Cleveland was 311 pounds at the NFL Scouting Combine. While adjusting to the NFL, he won't need to add nearly as much weight as O'Neill did. With a little work in the strength and conditioning program, Cleveland could contribute quickly.

There's no doubt Cleveland has the speed to get out in space and make critical outside zone blocks (see video below). The most difficult thing to project is his developmental track. Many people thought it would take a full year for O'Neill to contribute. During his rookie year, O'Neill actually started 11 games at right tackle.

Cleveland has all of the necessary traits for offensive line coach Rick Dennison to develop. The fact Minnesota didn't need to trade up in the first round is remarkable. Cleveland had so much pre-draft buzz and could have easily gone in the top-40. I had him rated at No. 49 on my big board.

The Vikings have now created a young and athletic offensive line. Right tackle Brian O'Neill (24 years old), center Garrett Bradbury (24 years old) and left tackle Ezra Cleveland (21 years old) could be cornerstone players on Minnesota's offensive line. Also, Pat Elflein (25 years old) and Dru Samia (22 years old) can compete at left/right guard. If Cleveland isn't quite ready to start at left tackle, he can sit behind Riley Reiff for a season. In the event he is polished enough to play, Reiff could align at left guard for the Vikings in 2020.

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