Offensive Tackle – Ezra Cleveland – Boise State
I’m guessing most Chiefs fans don’t have a developmental offensive tackle at the top of their wish list for KC’s first round pick. That’s understandable given the fact that the Chiefs are currently set at tackle with Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz respectively. However, Eric Fisher is set to have a $14 million cap hit in each of the final two years of his contract. If the Chiefs were to land an offensive tackle that they believed could protect Patrick Mahomes’ blindside for the next decade, they could draft him and develop him this season and then save $11 million in 2021 by moving on from Fisher. That is where Ezra Cleveland comes in.
If the Chiefs needed a starting left tackle for 2020, I wouldn’t recommend Cleveland. He needs to develop his core strength and technique more before he’s ready to protect the most valuable asset the Chiefs have. If that’s the case, then why would I have a draft crush on him and be ok with the Chiefs using their first round pick on him? The answer is simple: his upside.
Cleveland is one of the most athletic tackles in this draft class. In Ryan Tracy’s excellent 2020 Draft Guide, he ranks the offensive lineman using his Master Athletic Matrix that is based on areas like power, explosion, and short area quickness. Out of all the linemen in the 2020 class, Ezra Cleveland finished second only to Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs in this matrix.
There simply aren’t very many 6-6 offensive tackles that can run a 4.93 second time in the 40-yard dash, do 30 reps of the bench press, and dominate both the three cone and 20 yard shuttle drills at the Combine. His tape is already solid, but if NFL coaches and trainers can get his technique right, his upside is higher than some of the tackles that will go before him. That is why he is such a perfect fit for the Chiefs.
Kansas Cityhas both the coaching staff needed and a solid starter at left tackle for him to develop behind. Plus, the Chiefs under Andy Reid have shown they prefer athleticism and movement skills over raw power on their line time and time again.
I know its a little hard to find him at first in the clip below, but watch it back a couple of times and look at the way he pulls around and then gets ten yards down field ahead of the running back and absolutely obliterates the defensive back coming in to make a play.
While he certainly wouldn’t be the most exciting pick, if the Chiefs feel like Ezra Cleveland could be Mahomes’ blindside protector for the next decade that is definitely worth a late first round pick for a team that will likely pass the ball as much as KC will in the decade to come. The combination of attitude and athleticism that he plays with are rare, and the Chiefs seem like the perfect team for him to develop and realize his full potential.
Honorable Mention: Hakeem Adeniji – Kansas
I don’t know if what I’m about to say will make Jayhawk fans happy or angry, but Hakeem Adeniji is another prospect that has some great raw tools but his overall technique is a mess. He shows the natural athleticism and power to be a NFL starter someday, but it looks like he received little to no coaching in college. It’s like they said, “You’re naturally good enough to be our best offensive lineman, so we’re just going to leave you alone and focus on other things”.
Worst case scenario, Adeniji could be moved inside, but given a couple years to develop with NFL caliber coaching, I believe he has the athleticism to be a solid NFL tackle. Adeniji also faired well on Tracy’s athletic matrix, where he was the fifth highest offensive lineman behind Wirfs, Cleveland, Cesar Ruiz, and Austin Jackson. He’d be another great pick for the Chiefs in the middle rounds.
Next up, the interior lineman that I think may be my favorite match for KC in this draft.