It is not often that a team’s third-round pick in a given draft garners more attention and praise than their first. The Baltimore Ravens had a pair of round one selections and used them on players at premium skill positions in former Minnesota wide receiver Rashod Bateman and Penn State edge defender Odafe Oweh.
However, it has been Ben Cleveland who they took late in the third round at No. 94 overall that has been talked about the most since joining the team because of his massive size and Duck Dynasty dietary habits prior to being a pro. He is viewed as a plug-and-play day one starter who many projects as the front runner to win the competition at left guard.
While Cleveland is confident in his ability to compete and excel at the next level, he thinks those flattering assumptions are “way too far ahead into the future to look at”. His main focus in the immediate future is learning Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman’s complex and diverse scheme.
“I’m really focused on today and getting the playbook down,” Cleveland said at rookie minicamp last weekend. “We’re all seeing this playbook for the first or second time. So, right now, really and truly just focused on getting in sync with these new guys and learning this playbook.”
Meet Ben ̶C̶l̶e̶v̶e̶l̶a̶n̶d̶ Baltimore. pic.twitter.com/O3qFmzJAt6— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) May 17, 2021
“You can’t go play fast until you know what you’re doing. I think that’s definitely step one – is just making sure you get that playbook down-pat. That’s really what I’m worried about right now. [I’m] not really thinking ahead to fall [training] camp and that starting job. Obviously, that’s the goal for this year, but that can’t happen until I get the playbook down and learn my assignments.”
The Ravens are devout believers in competition bringing the best out of everyone, and the cream will rise to the top when all parties in contention are given ample or at least equal opportunity to prove themselves. Cleveland will be joining a stout position group that features Pro Bowlers Ronnie Stanley and Alejandro Villanueva, as well as stalwart veteran newcomer Kevin Zeitler.
“It’s exciting to get to work beside people who have played at this level for so long, just because of the knowledge that they have of different techniques and different things to pick up on,” Cleveland said.
“There’s so much that a young guy like me is going to be able to learn from them, regardless of how successful I might’ve been in college. The NFL is a completely different game, and it’s something that they’ve seen, so it’s something that I can learn from them on.”
While he hadn’t been in contact with any of the veteran offensive linemen before minicamp, one player that did reach out from the starting unit was Bradley Bozeman. The fourth-year pro is expected to move over to center in 2021 after starting every game at left guard for each of the last two seasons.
“Bozeman reached out to me the night I got drafted,” Cleveland said. “Just kind of setting himself up as a friendly face. Him playing in the SEC, we kind of have that common ground.”
At 6-foot-6 and 357 pounds per the team’s official website, he possesses the physical profile of a prototypical mauling guard in both the running and passing game. However, playing like a Raven means a lot more than just looking the part.
“I think it means just go out and play physical,” said Cleveland. “I think that’s something they pride themselves on here, is playing physical downhill, being able to run the ball, give a relentless effort on every single play. Just giving everything that you’ve got for the team. I don’t consider myself to be a selfish player. I do what I can for the team to the best of my ability. I think that’s what it means to, ‘Play Like a Raven,’ is just to go out there and give everything you’ve got for the team.”