Both players came from Boston College. Both are offensive tackles who stand at 6'7 and weigh in the 300-315 pound range. And they even roomed together when they started five games across from each other on the Eagles' offensive line in 2010.
The two Colts carry a few on-field similarities as well. But a main difference, and it's an obvious one, separates them: Castonzo was a first-round pick, and Cleary was undrafted.
No matter. The Colts liked Cleary more than the typical undrafted free agent, giving him a $20,000 signing bonus when he agreed to play for them. That was the second-highest signing bonus among UDFAs in 2013, behind only John Lotulelei's $25,000 signing bonus with the Seahawks.
So what does that mean? At the end of April, it meant the Colts were intrigued enough by Cleary's abilities that they knew they had to sign him.
Two months later, though, it doesn't mean much. Cleary has had many practices since then to show the coaches what kind of player he really is. One way or another, they likely feel differently about Cleary than they did when he signed.
Two players will likely survive out of that grouping. Let's take a look at some scouting reports to see how Cleary stacks up.
The first comes from the National Football Post:
STRENGTHS - Cleary gets off of the LOS fairly well and gets into his set well. He shows that he has good strength in the running game and has the ability to move DL away from the run. Slides his feet fairly well in the pass game. Has the quickness and ability to get to the 2nd level well as well as the other side of the line on stunt blocks. He has a large frame and combine that with his strength he is a solid blocker. When he does use his punch technique he uses his hands quickly is does well in gaining separation.
WEAKNESSES - While Cleary does get off the snap well and is not sloppy, he needs to get off the line more quickly. I fear that the speed of the NFL DE's will burn right past him. Footwork can be choppy which can cause him to not being able to adjust quickly. Needs to become much more physical at the LOS. Drops head at times which can allow the DL to gain more leverage on him. While he can get to the 2nd level well, he does have trouble blocking in the open field.
SUMMARY - Cleary has the strength and has the ability to move guys in the running game. When he uses punch he does have the ability to do it well and can create separation off of that. Cleary is a very inconsistent player. There are times where he can look like a solid player at the next level and there are other times where he looks as though he cannot succeed at the next level. He needs to do a better job of exploding off the snap and show much more physicality than he has shown. While he has a large frame, I feel as though he could put on some more muscle weight and become an even bigger force. I fear that the speed of the DE in the NFL will get to him and be able to blow right past him if he doesn't improve off the line. He is very good in the running game. He slides well and does have the ability to react. His footwork does have a tendency to be choppy and can cause him to be unable to react quick enough. Overall, I expect Cleary to be a late round pick because of his size and run blocking ability, but he is going to need to improve in pass protection to ever be more than a backup in the NFL.
Those Castonzo comparisons are coming into play again. Castonzo has been a better run blocker than pass protector in his career, giving up 35 hurries, 11 hits and nine sacks just last year. He usually struggles to handle speed rushers well and a lack of balance can get the better of him, just like Cleary, as shown above.
However, those issues weren't as apparent for Castonzo when he was on the college level, hence the first-round selection. They were for Cleary. If he really was a "very inconsistent player" as the scouting report describes, it's unlikely he'll magically settle down and become steadier in the NFL. Still, he'll have to clean up his play somehow if these reports turn out to be true.
The next scouting report to look at comes from draftinsider.net:
Positive: Large, stiff lineman best in a small area. Strong at the point, stays square, and controls opponents once engaged in a block. Works to bend his knees and plays with leverage. Keeps his head on a swivel, works well with linemates, and always looks for someone to hit. Stays with the action and seals defenders from plays.
Negative: Immobile and ineffective blocking in motion. Lacks footwork and struggled at left ackle as a senior. Possesses limited agility, which hampers his ability to finish blocks.
Analysis: Cleary has nice size and showed consistent improvement the past two seasons. He's a right tackle prospect who will also get consideration inside at guard and could be an effective backup in the NFL.
As Linkenbach has shown, it pays to be versatile as a backup offensive lineman. Cleary was projected not only to be a reserve swing tackle by most scouting reports, but also a guard in a few others. That would replicate Linkenbach's role for the past three seasons.
However, since Linkenbach is going into his fourth year with the Colts, it's hard to see him getting cut, especially in favor of a rookie or any of the other competing tackles. He just has too much experience.
But that doesn't rule out Ijalana, Sowell or Ziemba, whom I mentioned earlier, as other players Cleary could supplant. Since none of the four players particularly stand out from the rest based on play alone, this will an interesting training camp battle. It could be one of the final roster spots used.
So keep your eyes on Cleary as the Colts work through the next two months of the offseason. As easily as he could get cut at the end of September, he could easily become the next Linkenbach in the coming years just as well.
There isn't much film of Cleary on Youtube, unfortunately. But if you have some interest in scouting him yourself, grab a drink and check out this game below. Cleary is #77, lining up at left tackle for Boston College.