Analyst: ‘Last and Best Opportunity to Become a Starter’ for Ravens 3rd-Rounder

Ravens Guard Ben Cleveland celebrates touchdown.

Getty Ravens Guard Ben Cleveland celebrates touchdown.

The Baltimore Ravens took a major hit in free agency this offseason and lost key starters across multiple positions. One of the positions that was hit the hardest for Baltimore was along the offensive line, which leaves opportunities for other players to step up like guard Ben Cleveland.

The Athletics’ Jeff Zrebiec wrote, “This feels like Cleveland’s last — and best — opportunity to become a starter.”

“The 2021 third-round pick has been a bit of an enigma. When he’s played, he’s mostly performed well,” Zrebiec explained.

However, the Ravens may be forced to give Cleveland a chance this offseason as they lost three out of their five starters across the line.

Zrebiec wrote, “Baltimore now has vacancies at both guard spots following the departures of Kevin Zeitler and John Simpson.” Zeitler left for the Detroit Lions while Simpson joined the New York Jets.

The Ravens also traded OT Morgan Moses to the Jets to save on their cap situation, so head coach John Harbaugh will be attempting different combinations with the players he currently has at his disposal.

The Ravens in 2023 were an already run-heavy team with QB Lamar Jackson, but with the addition of RB Derrick Henry it is expected there will be an even heavier emphasis on the run game.

A heavy run game relies on a strong offensive line to be effective. If Cleveland cannot step into the role, then general manager Eric DeCosta may be forced to look elsewhere to build the trenches.

Ben Cleveland Has Excelled When Given the Chance

The Ravens drafted Cleveland in the third round of the 2021 draft, and at age 25 still has plenty of potential and time ahead of him.

At 6-6 and 370 pounds, the massive guard should be a mountain at the position but just has not blossomed into a full-time starter.

Zrebiec wrote, “Whether it’s because of injuries, inconsistencies in practice or a lack of trust from the coaching staff — which wants Cleveland to play to his size — he hasn’t established himself as a starter.”

In his three seasons in the league, he has only been able to start 7 games, even with the Ravens injury problems in past seasons. His season high in snaps occurred his rookie season when he played 367 offensive snaps which was about 43%.

Yet, since his rookie season he has only played another 254 offensive snaps for Baltimore. “He didn’t get first-team reps last training camp when there was a starting left guard competition,” Zrebiec explained.

Andrew Vorhees is another OL the Ravens will be looking to see if he can capture one of the starting positions, but with what is currently on the roster Cleveland should have the inside track.

Draft Is Possible Fix for Ravens Offensive Line Woes

The Ravens and GM DeCosta will likely spend draft capital at improving the offensive line but what that looks like will be anybody’s guess.

The Ravens have a handful of picks and could address the position in multiple spots but with their No. 30 overall picks seems likely.

Four out of six of CBS Sport’s analysts projected the Ravens to address OL with their first-round pick in some fashion. The options ranged from Tyler Guyton, Jordan Morgan to Troy Fautanu.

ESPN’s Mel Kiper projected the Ravens to use their second-round pick on Kansas State guard Cooper Beebe. Kiper wrote, “While they’re [Baltimore] likely to promote from within for one of those spots, they should add competition with one of the top picks. Beebe has played tackle and guard, but he has short arms for his 6-3 frame.”

This year’s offensive line class is considered extremely deep, so DeCosta will have plenty of players and opportunities.


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