Three years ago, Boise State offensive tackle Ezra Cleveland, then a redshirt freshman, impressed me as a future NFL prospect the way he handled the left tackle position. Cleveland has shown consistent development the past two years and the underclassman is well-liked in scouting circles as a 2020 NFL Draft prospect. This week, along with his Bronco teammates, he faces one of the best defenses in the Mountain West Conference.
If all goes well, the 2020 NFL Draft will be rife with terrific offensive tackle prospects, most of who can play on the left side. My board presently has six potential first-round picks at the position. Granted we must wait and see what happens with the injured (Walker Little) and those waffling (Tristan Wirfs). But even after the top half dozen prospects, there is plenty of talent at the position including Cleveland, someone who slips through the cracks and often goes unmentioned.
Stepping in with the first team in 2017, Cleveland has started at left tackle for Boise State every game the past three years. He’s a long, athletic blocker who displays terrific footwork off the edge as well as the ability to block in motion. Blocking with proper fundamentals, Cleveland plays with leverage, proper hand technique, and controls opponents at the point of attack. He keeps his feet moving, displays range in pass protection, and easily takes out linebackers on the second level. His agility and ability to adjust to speed rushers or pick up the blitz is very impressive. Cleveland could improve his run blocking strength a bit, one of the few criticisms I have of his game.
Saturday’s test against the top pass-rushing team in Mountain West
Earlier this season when Boise State traveled to Tallahassee and beat Florida State, Ezra Cleveland blanked the Seminoles pass-rushing duo of Janoris Robinson and Leonard Warner. This Saturday the Broncos face off against the top pass-rushing team in the Mountain West.
Wyoming has recorded 26 sacks in 8 games this season, far and away the best in the Mountain West. Redshirt freshman Solomon Byrd gets a lot of pressure from his defensive end position and has recorded 6 sacks this season. Garrett Crall, who sits ahead of Byrd on the depth chart, has 4 sacks to his credit. Both are long, speed rushers who will be a challenge for Cleveland.
There is a belief Cleveland will enter the 2020 NFL Draft and I presently grade him as a second-day selection. My personal belief is Cleveland is a better next level prospect than former Boise State product Charles Leno, a seventh-round pick of the Chicago Bears and a three-year starter at left tackle who was a Pro Bowler last season.
In the end, Ezra Cleveland is a terrific draft prospect with a nice degree of upside and starting potential at the next level.
Tony Pauline is Pro Football Network’s NFL Draft Analyst and Insider. Follow him on Twitter @TonyPauline. Follow PFN on Twitter @PFN365.