Eisenberg: Day 2 Picks Were Worth the Wait

Left: G Ben Cleveland (AP Photo/Michael Woods); Right: CB Brandon Stephens (247Sports/Matt Visinsky)

If the Ravens surprised you by not selecting an offensive lineman with either of their first-round picks in the 2021 NFL Draft, you weren't alone.

I certainly thought they might, especially after the board broke their way, giving them several interesting O-line prospects to choose from.

Taking one seemed like the right move for an organization that has made an O-line upgrade one of its priorities for 2021.

But as you probably know, General Manager Eric DeCosta went in a different direction in the first round – two different directions, actually, with his selections of wide receiver Rashod Bateman and edge defender Odafe Oweh.

That pushed one of the Ravens' biggest questions of the draft to Day 2. Would they get around to addressing the O-line Friday night? And if so, how?

We had to wait a long time to find out. Lacking a second-round pick, the Ravens watched more than 60 players come off the board before they finally were on the clock.

Their selection of Ben Cleveland, a mountainous guard from Georgia, answered the question affirmatively. And suddenly, the whole situation made a lot more sense.

Why did they pass on several better-known O-line prospects who had been linked to them in mock drafts? It turned out Head Coach John Harbaugh had his eye on Cleveland all along.

"John has been talking about Cleveland for two months, really," General Manager Eric DeCosta said. "It was a relief to see him available. This is John's pick. This is the kind of guy we like on the offensive line."

No wonder the Ravens were willing to pass on those other O-linemen. They were looking for the guy who fit their unique philosophy.

"This is a big, strong, powerful guy who likes to rough people up, and that's how we want to play," Harbaugh said.

To be clear, Cleveland isn't being handed a starting job. Harbaugh and DeCosta both stressed that he would simply join a competition for interior O-line snaps that already includes Tyre Philips, Ben Powers, Ben Bredeson, Patrick Mekari and Trystan Colon.

But Harbaugh also didn't deny that Cleveland's addition has him doodling possible starting fives. With veteran Kevin Zeitler set to play right guard, Cleveland could step in at left guard, allowing Bradley Bozeman to move to center.

"The line you're thinking about is something we're thinking about as well," Harbaugh acknowledged.

He is so excited about the possibility that he started tugging on DeCosta's sleeve and wondering aloud about trading up for Cleveland as the third round unfolded Friday night.

"I was being a bit of a Nervous Nellie, wanting us to trade up," Harbaugh said.

DeCosta talked him off the ledge and the player Harbaugh wanted fell to the Ravens through more than 60 picks.

"At the start of the day, if you'd told us we'd get Ben Cleveland, we'd have turned in (the card with the pick) right there," DeCosta said.

With the second of their third-round picks Friday night, the Ravens selected another player who fits how they play. Brandon Stephens is a physical, attacking cornerback who can also line up at safety or nickel. I can almost hear Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale considering how to deploy a converted running back who has size, speed and "loves contact," according to DeCosta.

Cleveland's selection means the Ravens have addressed all three of the positions they hoped to address in the draft – edge defender, wide receiver and O-line. Stephens' selection is all about building depth and planning for the future at a key position.

I'm sure DeCosta, Harbaugh and the rest of the front office would tell you the long wait they endured before making the picks was well worth it.

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