It used to be that mocking just the first round was an arduous task. But that was back in the days before you couldn’t turn on your hand-held device without bumping into a mock draft simulator. Nowadays, knocking out a seven-rounder takes mere minutes.
Which yields a ton of data. All of it speculative, to be sure, but what else is there to do during draft season?
Last week we put that data to work identifying a late add to the list of potential new Minnesota Vikings, as Virginia Tech offensive tackle Christian Darrisaw was being mocked somewhat frequently to Minnesota with the 14th pick. This week, we’ll move on to Day 3 and take a closer look at another name being tied to the Vikings via more than a few mock drafts.
Once again, I looked back at the last 20 mock drafts collected by the Mock Draft Database, this time to see who was being linked to the Vikings with their two third-round picks.
Of the 20 mocks, exactly half had the Vikings taking an offensive lineman at 14 — and three had them double-dipping along the offensive line by spending one of their two third-rounders on a big fella as well. Four of the remaining 10 used the first of Minnesota’s two third-rounders (78) on the o-line, with one of them following up with another lineman at 90; that draft, which landed the Vikings guards Ben Cleveland and Deonte Brown, shall henceforth be known as my favorite.
That leaves six mocks, one of which waited until 90 to address the offensive line and five run by Mike Zimmer’s burner account where only defensive players were eligible for selection. Armed with this data, I ran a few three-round draft simulations of my own to see if I found similar results.
It actually took me a few mocks to get Cleveland to fall to 78, as the New York Giants (76) and Los Angeles Chargers (77) both need offensive line help as much as the Vikings and snapped him up just before Minnesota came on the clock. Also, Rashawn Slater and Darrisaw were still on the board at 14, and I couldn’t help myself, which threw off the entire simulation.
Getting Cleveland to make it to 78 was important because he’s the offensive lineman most frequently mocked to the Vikings in the third round, based on that set of recent mocks I mentioned earlier. And because we leave no stone unturned when it comes to potential help for the Vikings’ offensive line, here’s a little more information on a guy who could give Minnesota bookend Cleveland guards — or maybe even an entire side of Cleveland.
Another Cleveland Might Just Work
If Ben Cleveland is the Vikings’ target in the third round, it will mark a bit of a departure from their “type.” Rather than being ultra-athletic and maybe a bit undersized, this Cleveland is 6’6″, 343 lbs. However, each scouting report is quick to point out that he’s not carrying much extra weight and is instead just an incredibly large and well-proportioned human being.
All 16 of Cleveland’s starts at Georgia came at right guard. He started the final five games of his freshman campaign and missed six games as a sophomore with a broken leg (though he returned to action by the end of the season). He started seven games as a junior but was academically ineligible for the Bulldogs’ bowl game a year ago. And he started all nine games last year before opting out of Georgia’s bowl game this year.
Cleveland’s legendary weight-room strength translates to the field, where he’s an aggressive and motivated run blocker. He also held up in pass protection and didn’t allow a sack in his final three seasons at Georgia. As you might expect, a guard that big and that strong is going to set a solid anchor — something Vikings fans may be unfamiliar with from their offensive linemen.
Where Minnesota might lose interest is in the “athleticism” portion of Cleveland’s scouting report, given that it is described with such glowing terms as “adequate” or “average.” He isn’t necessarily limited to a power/gap scheme, but teams using that approach may place more value on Cleveland than the Vikings do and thus have him ranked higher on their draft board.
Ben Cleveland also lacks the positional versatility of, say, the Ezra version currently employed by the Vikings. Ben is a guard-only option, though an All-SEC one at that. Adding Ben Cleveland likely means the Vikings plan to kick the other Cleveland outside to tackle, where he played the entirety of his collegiate snaps.
In many ways, Ben Cleveland is similar to Deonte Brown, who we noted in a previous article would also be a departure from the norm for the Vikings. But adding either SEC-tested guard to set an anchor in pass protection and bang some bodies in the running game would be an upgrade over last year’s debacle.
And if the Vikings intend to wait until Day 2 to address their offensive line deficiencies, maybe that’s the best we can hope for.