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Why the Ravens selected Ben Cleveland— to take back the line of scrimmage

Cleveland allows Baltimore to use more inside zone concepts with sound pass pro

NCAA Football: CFP National Championship Game-Alabama vs Georgia Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

With the No. 94 pick in the 2021 NFL draft, the Baltimore Ravens added Ben Cleveland, a guard from the University of Georgia.

“Big Country” is exactly that, big. A behemoth, Cleveland plays strong and big. His ability to down block folds creases in defensive fronts, an issue the Ravens have had against talented, playoff caliber defenses. Cleveland has some of the best functional strength in this entire draft class, with an anchor to thwart bull rushes so quickly it’s comical. Cleveland lit up the Senior Bowl on the first day, but suffered a minor injury that forced him to miss the rest of the week. If he didn’t, I suspect his stock would’ve grown even higher.

Cleveland’s anchor will be welcome in Baltimore, where the Ravens have struggled to set the line of scrimmage confidently. Cleveland is also a quick processor against games like twists and delayed blitzes. If this continues to the NFL, Cleveland will have a great shot at becoming a day-one starter.

The former bulldog turned heads at his pro-day, turning in one of the best RAS scores of the year among interior offensive linemen.

Cleveland has solid length and showed a shocking combination of size and speed at his pro day. The only question marks about the enormous guard are his ability to handle quick interior defensive linemen who can threaten him laterally with length. Cleveland has length himself, but in five man spread protection, can be beat laterally. His foot speed isn’t poor, but considering his size, he isn’t the most fleet of foot among offensive linemen. His steps are precise and he remains calm in pass pro because his anchor is so absurdly stout.

Considering Cleveland only allowed three pressures and one sack over his past 700+ pass sets, he has the ability to become an immediate contributor to a Ravens offensive line that struggled against more athletic, disruptive defensive fronts. That culminated in a disappointing Divisional Round performance for Baltimore’s offensive line. Cleveland will allow the Ravens to fully diversify their blocking concepts. Baltimore struggled to work inside zone and duo concepts since Marshal Yanda retired following the 2019-20 season. With the additions of Ben Cleveland and Kevin Zeitler, that figures to change. Cleveland is ideally suited in a man/gap blocking scheme. Baltimore runs the most prolific man/gap scheme in recent NFL history. Glove meet hand. Cleveland will immediately compete to start at left guard, while figuring to be a viable option at right guard after Kevin Zeitler’s stint concludes.