The New York Giants could find themselves in need of a new right guard in 2021.
They rotated a pair of guards, at the left guard spot but relied on veteran Kevin Zeitler at the right guard position. But while Zeitler’s play doesn’t give the Giants reason to move on, his contract might. Zeitler is the third-highest paid player on the Giants’ roster and the fourth-highest paid guard in the NFL. With the salary cap set to drop, Zeitler could become a cap casualty, opening a hole at right guard.
Enter long time Georgia right guard Ben Cleveland.
Cleveland has the size and power the Giants like from their players, as well as experience as a special teams player. He also has plenty of experience and competitive toughness, but what kind of player is he on the field?
Prospect: Ben Cleveland
Games Watched: vs. Notre Dame (2019), vs. Alabama (2019), vs. Auburn (2020)
Games played: 45
Best: Size, length, power, competitive toughness, football IQ
Worst: Accuracy in space, athleticism
Projection: Starting guard in a man-gap scheme, special teams contributor.
Georgia guard Ben Cleveland is a big, long, strong, and experienced guard prospect. Cleveland has played in 45 games across his collegiate career, most of which were at right guard, as well as on special teams.
Cleveland shows good lower body flexibility, sitting easily in his stance and playing with good hip and pad level at the start of the play. He shows excellent play strength, creating movement along the line of scrimmage and even able to dig out even bigger defensive tackles. Cleveland’s play strength is also evident in his pass protection, as he is able to anchor and re-anchor against bull rushes. He is able to play with good leverage, both with his hip and pad level as well as with his hand placement — though that can be inconsistent. Cleveland is best in man-gap schemes, but has the ability to execute on the back side outside zone runs.
Cleveland’s play strength can manifest as explosive power when he meets smaller defenders (such as blitzing linebackers) with good leverage, occasionally “rag dolling” those defenders off their rushes.
Cleveland has acceptable athleticism with enough lateral agility within his range to mirror most interior defenders in pass protection. He also shows good football IQ in anticipating stunts, twists, and blitzes. He also knows his role within the blocking scheme and shows good discipline within that scheme. Cleveland shows impressive competitive toughness throughout the play, using great effort to sustain blocks as well as a willingness to look for work.
While Cleveland has the height normally associated with offensive tackles, he lacks the athleticism to play the edge at the NFL level. He has adequate movement skills for an interior offensive lineman, but can struggle to be effective when asked to play outside of his range. Cleveland is able to get out in space, working to the second level or as a blocker on screen plays, but his blocks can lack accuracy. He also has a tendency to let his hips and shoulder pads rise throughout the play, leading to a loss of leverage and lunging at defenders.
Overall Grade: 6.3 - Cleveland has a high floor and should be a reliable depth piece with starting upside in a power-based scheme. However, he is not scheme diverse and a “guard only” prospect.
Ben Cleveland projects as a good depth player on the interior offensive line for most offenses, with added value as a special teams contributor. He does have starting upside as a guard — likely a right guard — for offenses that emphasize power runs and a man-gap run scheme.
Cleveland is an experienced prospect with good football IQ to shorten his development curve, as well as good size, play strength, and competitive toughness. He is tall for a guard, which becomes an issue when he loses his leverage. He can also lose accuracy with his hand placement, letting them drift outside defenders’ framework.
Cleveland’s experience on special teams should ensure a spot on the roster while he works his way into a starting offensive line job.