Mock Check: Kiper Expects Titans to Take a Tackle
The man who started it all, ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr., has rolled out his latest NFL mock draft, which takes into account what happened at the NFL scouting combine and during the first week of free agency signings.
Kiper forecasts Boise State tackle Ezra Cleveland to the Titans at No. 29 overall.
Cleveland was one of the standout performers at the combine, where he was one of five offensive linemen to deliver at least 30 reps of the 225-pound bench press, was timed in 4.93 in the 40 (third fastest among all offensive linemen who ran) and was one of 15 to get at least 30 inches in the vertical jump.
That kind of athleticism from someone who is 6-foot-6, 311 pounds opened eyes among draft analysts who previously might not have considered him a first-round choice, including Kiper.
“After Cleveland's excellent combine performance … I went back to the tape to study him. And what I saw was a left tackle who I was underrating,” Kiper wrote, in part.
Titans general manager Jon Robinson, though, has shown he wants more than just measurables from his draft picks. He values game film (i.e. someone who has played a lot of football), and in that way Cleveland fits the bill and looks like a legitimate option.
Following a redshirt year in 2016, Cleveland started all 40 games he played for Boise State over three seasons and was a two-time All-Mountain West first-team selection. He even stayed on the field in 2019 despite a foot injury that limited him early.
Kiper ranks Cleveland sixth among this year’s offensive tackle prospects.
His college career is reminiscent of Jack Conklin’s, the Titans’ first-round pick in 2016 and a recent free agent departure. Robinson re-signed Dennis Kelly with the idea that he would replace Conklin at right tackle, but he also has shown he is willing to address a position of need in free agency and the draft. A perfect example was 2017, when he signed cornerback Logan Ryan and then used the No. 18 overall pick that year to select Adoreé Jackson.
A pair of other recent mock drafts, including one from SI.com’s Kevin Hanson and one from NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein, expect the Titans to take a cornerback in the first round – albeit different cornerbacks – in part to address the loss of Ryan, another free agent departure.
Kiper acknowledges the need for a cornerback and the possibility that Tennessee goes that direction with its first choice. But now, he sees Cleveland as the Titans’ right tackle of the future … or sooner.
“Cleveland isn't just a workout wonder,” Kiper said. “He was a great tackle in the Mountain West.”