MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Vikings selected Boise State offensive tackle Ezra Cleveland with their second-round pick and chose Mississippi State cornerback Cameron Dantzler in the third round Friday night, patiently filling major needs without having to move up.
Cleveland went 58th overall and Dantzler at No. 89. The Vikings also owned the 105th pick, one of the compensatory selections at the end of the third round.
The 6-foot-6, 311-pound Cleveland posted some standout numbers at the scouting combine after three years as the starting left tackle for the Broncos.
His athleticism is one of his primary attributes, boasting the mobility to make zone blocks that are key to offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak’s system. Boise State ran an offense with similar tendencies and philosophies, a transitional advantage amid the virus-caused uncertainty of when rookies will actually be able to get in-person practice time with the new team.
“I think it’s a huge benefit for me to be coming from a zone type scheme and then going right back into one,” Cleveland said.
His arrival in Minnesota could mean moving left tackle Riley Reiff to left guard, but college scouting director Jamaal Stephenson said the Vikings believe Cleveland is capable of moving inside, too.
Six offensive tackles were taken in the first round, but only one was off the board in the second round when the Vikings came on the clock, Robert Hunt, who could wind up as a guard for Miami. Washington has been shopping seven-time Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams, who sat out last season in a health-related dispute with the team, but the Vikings didn’t bite and went with the rookie instead without having to give any assets up.
“We thought about going up, potentially, but we just felt like with all the players left on the board, we would just sit and wait and get our guy,” Stephenson said.
Cleveland was timed in the 40-yard dash at the combine in 4.93 seconds, the third-fastest among all offensive linemen. He performed 30 repetitions at 225 pounds on the bench press, the fifth-most at his position in Indianapolis two months ago.
“I’m not quite sure if he faced the kind of people that he’s going to see at the NFL level that he saw at Boise. I think there will be an adjustment, like there is for most, but he’s a smart guy,” Stephenson said. “He’ll figure it out. He loves football. He’s tough. We think he’s going to be OK.”
The Vikings used their two first-round picks on Thursday to fill voids at wide receiver (LSU’s Justin Jefferson) and cornerback (TCU’s Jeff Gladney), taking advantage of depth in this class at both positions. Jefferson went 22nd overall, the fifth wide receiver taken. Gladney was the 31st pick, after the Vikings moved down six spots in a swap with San Francisco that landed them extra selections in the fourth and fifth round.
After letting their top three cornerbacks — Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander — from last season leave, the Vikings have places for Gladney and Dantzler to play right away. They’ll join Mike Hughes, Holton Hill and Kris Boyd at an especially young position group.
The offensive line has been a clear area of need for the last five years, and the attempts to address that by general manager Rick Spielman have been rather spotty.
Center Garrett Bradbury went in the first round in 2019 and right tackle Brian O’Neill was a second-rounder in 2018, but they’re among just six offensive linemen the Vikings have taken in the first four rounds over the last five drafts.
Left guard Pat Elflein, who was the center his first two years until Bradbury came along, was a third-rounder in 2017 who has struggled after ankle and shoulder surgeries following his rookie season. Reiff, who got a five-year, $58 million contract in 2017, is the only significant free agent signing still on the roster.
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