In the weeks leading up to the 2020 NFL Draft, there was chatter about Ezra Cleveland being a first-round pick.
The Boise State left tackle ended up going to the Vikings in the second round with the 58th overall pick, meaning Minnesota got good value for a player who could help them for years to come.
Besides the value of Cleveland's selection, Ted Nguyen of The Athletic also believes that the scheme fit between the Vikings and the 6-foot-6, 311-pound lineman is a perfect one.
Nguyen recently listed 10 rookies he likes based on what scheme they are coming into, and included a breakdown of why Cleveland's athletic profile will work well in Minnesota's zone-blacking system.
Nguyen, who called Cleveland [an] "athletic but raw blocker who lacks power," wrote:
The Vikings will continue to implement an outside-zone-based system under Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak. The system requires smaller, more athletic offensive linemen because blocking on the outside requires movement and blocking defenders in space.
There is certainly risk associated with drafting boom-or-bust prospects such as Cleveland, but the Vikings picked him at the bottom of the second round. There was buzz that he would get drafted in the first round. In this system, good tackle play is so important in the run game because in outside zone, the tackles are often assigned to reach or kick out defensive ends one-on-one. I like how the Vikings filled a need with good draft value and a high-upside player who fits so well schematically.
View the sketch of Vikings second round draft pick T Ezra Cleveland who was transformed into a caricature by local artist Erik Roadfeldt.
Cleveland chatted with the Twin Cities media on the night he was drafted, and said there would be some familiarity in learning the Vikings offensive scheme.
"At Boise, we're a big zone offense, as well. We do inside zone first, then power, then mid-zone," Cleveland said. "A bunch of our plays are the zone scheme … and having this offseason where we don't know what's going to happen, I think it's a huge benefit for me to be coming from a zone-type scheme and going right back into one."
Vikings ranked 9th in ESPN's power rankings
The two biggest roster-churning events of the offseason — free agency and the draft — are in the rearview mirror.
And while there are still players out there that could be signed as free agents, most rosters around the league are at or near capacity. The Vikings for example, have 87 players on the team and just three available spots.
The league perception of Minnesota is a strong one, as the Vikings were recently ranked ninth in ESPN's power rankings*.*
ESPN Vikings reporter Courtney Cronin was tasked with selecting a player who benefitted most from the draft, and went with Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen.
The Vikings drafted Stefon Diggs' heir apparent when they took Justin Jefferson No. 22 overall, and the LSU star immediately fills the No. 2 receiver opening. Jefferson had 100 receptions out of the slot last year and is primed to catch a lot of passes from Kirk Cousins in 2020, but it's the attention he'll draw from defenses that could help Thielen see less bracket man coverage. The Vikings also added K.J. Osborn and Quartney Davis in the draft [process, as Davis was an undrafted free agent]. Minnesota might have defined roles for their top four receivers for the first time in years.
The Packers were ranked sixth, while the Bears came in at No. 21 and the Lions were ranked 28th.