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Boise State's Ezra Cleveland potentially good fit for Packers' wide-zone scheme

Jim Owczarski
Packers News
Boise State offensive lineman Ezra Cleveland could be a candidate to replace Bryan Bulaga.

Latest in a Packers Prospects series looking at players Green Bay could select in the April 23-25 NFL draft.

GREEN BAY - The Green Bay Packers haven’t had much luck when drafting an offensive tackle in the early rounds since they struck gold with Bryan Bulaga from Iowa in 2010. First-round pick Derek Sherrod (2011) and second-rounder Jason Spriggs (2016) both flamed out due to injury and ineffectiveness.

But with Bulaga departing via free agency, it may be time for general manager Brian Gutekunst to take a swing at the position.

Ezra Cleveland is a Boise State prospect who may need some time to develop into an NFL right tackle. That could work for the Packers, however, as Cleveland could bide his time behind former Wisconsin tackle Rick Wagner as Cleveland builds his body. The plans for a truncated spring program outside of Lambeau Field also may stunt his growth in that area, as some draft analysts feel he needs additional mass and strength not just for pass protection but also for powerful run-block assignments.

The Packers didn’t have much success in executing the wide-zone run-blocking scheme and Cleveland could provide not just the athleticism to do it but the recent experience in doing it coming out of college. The Packers did conduct a formal interview with Cleveland at the NFL scouting combine in February, which could prove important since top-30 prospect visits have been prohibited.

Age next season: 22.

Combine vitals: 4.93-second 40-yard dash, 30 bench press reps, 7.26-second three-cone drill.

Stats: 78.2 run-block grade, 81.9 pass-block grade, 11 career sacks allowed.

Pro Football Focus analysis: Cleveland has played more than 900 snaps at left tackle for Boise State in each of the past three seasons. He recorded an 81.0-plus PFF pass-blocking grades all three years, as well. His PFF run-blocking grade shot north of 78.0 in each of his last two years with the Broncos. He didn’t face high-level competition in the Mountain West, but Cleveland still allowed fewer than 20 total pressures in each of his three years as a starter at left tackle. He also was called for just seven total penalties.

Draftniks say: “An impressive athlete for the position, Cleveland is comfortable in space with a quick, efficient punch and the intelligence to beat rushers to the spot. However, his lack of anchor strength and explosiveness in his hands are concerns for his NFL transition. Overall, Cleveland struggles to match power in the run game and his lack of length creates a small margin for error, but he stays balanced in his pass-sets with the lower-body athleticism that frustrates rushers, projecting as an NFL starter.” — The Athletic draft analyst Lance Zierlein.

Quotable: “They’re getting a hard worker, first and foremost. I’m a do-it-right dude. I’m always gonna do the right thing and I always work my tail off for the guys on the left and right of me. I’m always gonna do my best to never let those guys down. — Ezra Cleveland via USA TODAY Network’s Draft Wire.