2022 NFL Draft First Look: Evan Neal

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Jan 1, 2021; Arlington, TX, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide offensive lineman Evan Neal (73) in action against Notre Dame Fighting Irish defensive lineman Adetokunbo Ogundeji (91) during the game at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Today we are analyzing Alabama’s gargantuan 6’7″ 360 lb. offensive tackle Evan Neal, who became a CFP National Champion with the Crimson Tide in 2020 as their starting right tackle. Neal, who profiles as a top 2022 NFL Draft prospect, is slated to move to left tackle for the 2021 season.

Strengths: Neal is gifted with extremely rare physical and athletic gifts. Neal possesses a massive, mauling build yet pairs it with surprising athleticism, quickness, and agility.  He uses his enormous, overwhelming size to engulf defenders at the point of attack. Neal is also extremely powerful with very strong hands. He has admirable hand placement, getting his hands inside a defender and dominating them throughout the rest of the rep with his unmatched hand strength which allows him to sustain blocks. These traits make Neal a dominant run blocker, as he generates a lot of movement in the run game by driving defenders backwards with his size and power. Neal excels in pass protection as well. His size offers him a very wide, stout base that is difficult to get past, but he remarkably does not have the athletic limitations that other massive offensive linemen have. Much to the contrary, Neal is remarkably quick and light on his feet. He comes out of his stance very smoothly and slides into his pass set with good lateral quickness and plenty of depth. Neal rarely gets beat around the edge, even against the fastest and swiftest pass rushers, because of his quickness, length, and hand strength. Neal routinely slides out into his past set and pushes the defender too far up his pass rush arc, steering him away from the quarterback. Neal shows high-level awareness, always keeping his head on a swivel. His ability to pick up multiple blocks in one rep is valuable. 

Negatives: Neal has some balance issues that should be corrected since he ends up on the ground which takes him out of the play too often. Leading into blocks with his head forward and letting his upper body get too far ahead of his lower body cause him to lunge or lose balance sometimes. Even if he doesn’t fall to the ground, this imbalance can cause him to not sustain blocks when he otherwise would be. Neal happens to drive his defender into the path of his running back sometimes, getting in his own player’s way. He should look to improve his understanding of where to steer his defender to to maximize the ball carrier’s gain on the play. In space, Neal could stand to gather better before locking onto a target, since he can come in a bit too out of control and allow the smaller, quicker second level defender to dip under him. 

Bottom Line: There may not be an offensive tackle currently in the NFL with a better combination of size and quickness than Neal, which speaks to the level of absurdity of his movement skills at his gargantuan size. While Neal does have certain issues to correct such as balance and running lanes, his high level of awareness and understanding of hand placement make me confident that he can diminish these issues in his third year as a starter. His move to left tackle in 2021, after successfully moving from left guard to right tackle between his first and second seasons, should serve as confirmation that he can thrive on an island in the NFL, since he will be tested like never before against speed rushers. From what I have seen on film from him so far, I believe he will continue to showcase his unique skill set and dominate in all phases of the game, projecting as a high-end NFL offensive tackle for years to come. 

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