Just 31 years old, Zeitler will be in his third stint in the AFC North. From 2012 to 2016, Zeitler played for the Cincinnati Bengals, starting 72 total games. In 2017 and 2018, Zeitler played for the Cleveland Browns, starting all 32 possible games. Over the last two seasons, Zeitler played for the aforementioned Giants.
Kevin Zeitler Impact: Passing Game
Zeitler has graded out as a better pass blocker than run blocker in every season of his career except for 2013. His 2020 campaign was the worst-graded season of his career, with just a PFF grade of 68.7 as a pass blocker. Despite the mediocrity, it was a better mark than any of Baltimore’s right guards posted in 2020.
Ben Powers was the best of the bunch, posting a 66.4 pass-blocking grade in 660 snaps at right guard.
Rookie Tyre Phillips split time at right guard and right tackle during the season. In the right guard segment of the season, he had a 65.3 pass-blocking grade.
Patrick Mekari played at right guard in five games during the season. He had an 82.3 pass-blocking grade in those snaps. However, Mekari will likely compete for the center position in 2020 (a position he graded much less favorably at, culminating in a 1.3 pass-blocking grade in the playoffs against the Buffalo Bills).
Zeitler will be quite the upgrade at right guard for the Ravens. Even if his play does not match the five-game stretch from Mekari, he will be much more consistent of a pass protector for Lamar Jackson. He is no Marshal Yanda, but he will provide stability.
Kevin Zeitler Impact: Running Game
Zeitler had a mediocre 63.0 run-blocking grade in 2020. It was not his worst (he had a 62.9 run-blocking grade in 2017), but Zeitler will be expected to be slightly better for the Ravens in 2021. How did the other right guards fare in 2020?
Powers was a below-average run blocker in 2020. He had an overall grade of 54.3. He only had two games with a run-blocking grade above 65.0, and he failed to post a 70.0 run-blocking grade in any game. He performed much better in 32 snaps as a rookie in 2019, earning a 78.8 grade. The good reps are there, but he struggled mightily in 2020.
Phillips, while competent as a pass blocker at right guard, was horrendous as a run blocker. His 42.2 run-blocking grade at right guard was poor. His best-graded game as a run blocker (at right guard) was 55.6. Even though Zeitler was just a league-average run blocker in 2020, he had 10 games with a better run-blocking grade including three games in the 70s and a stellar 91.9 grade against the Arizona Cardinals.
In Mekari’s five games at right guard, he had run-blocking grades of 64.1, 49.9, 80.8, 43.4, and 72.3 (35 snaps at right guard, 33 snaps at right tackle). Similar to the pass-blocking segment, Mekari was generally the most competent blocker, but Zeitler represents a sizable improvement, and he is someone that has a proven track record, not a five-game sample size.
Kevin Zeitler Impact: Offensive Line Cohesiveness
The 2020 Ravens were ravaged by COVID-19, injuries, and inconsistent play along the offensive line. The only unaffected slot was left guard as Bradley Bozeman played 1,187 of 1,197 snaps at a league-average level. At left tackle, Ronnie Stanley played six games before going down with a season-ending injury. Orlando Brown swapped from right tackle to left tackle for the rest of the season. The right guard inconsistencies have been chronicled in this article, but center was even more of a trouble spot. Matt Skura and Mekari were the scapegoats for Baltimore’s losses to New England and Buffalo (for good reason, Skura earned a 35.0 overall grade against New England and Mekari earned a 1.3 pass-blocking grade against Buffalo).
With Skura now in Miami, Baltimore hopes to have an offensive line of Stanley, Bozeman, Mekari, Zeitler, and Brown in 2021. An upgrade for Mekari could come in the draft, but Baltimore has other needs at wide receiver and edge, so a Day 1 starter at center might not be found in this draft. Either way, the Ravens will need more offensive line cohesiveness in 2021 to maintain their recent success. Zeitler should provide approximately 1,000 snaps of league-average or better right guard play. If he is Pro Bowl-caliber, it would be a bonus for Baltimore, but they only need Zeitler to be competent.
In his nine seasons, Zeitler has generally been one of the better guards in the NFL. He has played a minimum of 990 snaps in each of the last six years. He has not been named to the Pro Bowl in any season, but he may have been named in 2014 if he had played in all 16 games. Even if he is not a Pro Bowl-level guard for the Ravens in 2021, he will provide stability at a position that lacked stability in 2020. The main Kevin Zeitler impact will be stability and consistency along the offensive line.