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Big Blue View selects T Evan Neal to bolster offensive line at No. 5

The Giants add a tackle in our SB Nation NFL mock draft, and Neal’s versatility would be a solid addition to the Giants offensive line.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 10 CFP National Championship Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Will the third general manager be the charm for the New York Giants in trying to rebuild their long-dysfunctional offensive line?

Jerry Reese tried and failed in his final few seasons as general manager. Dave Gettleman replaced Reese, walked in the door proclaiming “big men allow you to compete” and promising to fill the Giants’ cupboard full of “hog mollies.” He failed miserably.

Now, it is rookie GM Joe Schoen’s turn.

Schoen began the rebuild in free agency with a series of low-cost signings of veterans who will, hopefully, bring an element of — at least — competence to the line. Mark Glowinski, Jon Feliciano, Max Garcia, Jamil Douglas and Matt Gano were added. The Giants are even taking a flier on Roy Mbaeteka, a 6’9, 320-pound Nigerian who has never played a down of football. He was found via the NFL’s International Player Pathway program.

Now comes the 2022 NFL Draft. With picks No. 5 and 7, no matter what else he does or what order he does it in, the league-wide assumption seems to be that Schoen pretty much has to come out of Round 1 with a right tackle to pair with left tackle Andrew Thomas, the team’s 2020 first-round pick.

There are three who enter the discussion — Ikem Ekwonu of NC State, Evan Neal of Alabama, Charles Cross of Mississippi State.

In this mock draft, where we are not considering trade possibilities like Schoen is expected to with one of his two picks, the New York Jets took Ekwonu at No. 4.

That leaves the choice for at No. 5 between Neal and Cross. As much as I love Cross’s smooth pass protection and his potential, the choice of Neal is an easy one to make here. Neal is a plug and play starter at right tackle for the Giants. He has a plethora of experience at both tackles and at guard, positional flexibility Cross doesn’t possess should there come a time when the Giants might want or need to move Neal inside.

Neal is 6’7, 337 pounds. He carries that weight better than a human being should be able to.

Dane Brugler of The Athletic has Neal as his No. 3 overall prospect in his annual draft guide. Brugler writes:

After starting every game at left guard as a freshman and at right tackle as a sophomore, he kicked out to left tackle this past season and played his best football as a junior, earning Consensus AllAmerican honors. A smooth athlete for a massive blocker, Neal bends well in pass protection and continues to rework his feet into position, using controlled hand exchange to keep rushers contained. In the run game, he has strong hands and does well at initial contact as a drive blocker, but his balance and sustain skills start to fade as the play progresses. Overall, Neal lacks elite lateral agility and needs to clean up his leaning, but he is an effective blocker thanks to his rare mix of size, athleticism and flexibility. He projects as an immediate NFL starter with Pro Bowl potential and multi-position versatility.

This is a pick that would make Giants’ fans very, very happy and should serve the team well for years to come.

Best players remaining:

  • Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU
  • Charles Cross, T, Mississippi State
  • Trent McDuffie, CB, Washington
  • Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, CB, Cincinnati
  • George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue