It’s easy to stand out when you stand over 6-foot-7 and weigh nearly 340 pounds. And Alabama offensive lineman Evan Neal certainly stands out.
The mammoth lineman is the kind of player teams want getting off the bus first when the team shows up to the stadium. But Neal is more than just a giant of a young man — he has long been considered the top offensive lineman in the 2022 NFL Draft. Neal is obviously big and powerful, but he’s also an excellent athlete who moves remarkably smoothly and can recover and redirect despite his size. He’s a technician who has gotten excellent coaching from one of the nation’s premier football factories.
He’s also experienced and versatile, having started 40 games at left guard, right tackle, and left tackle.
Could all of that make Evan Neal the answer that the New York Giants have been looking for at right tackle?
Games Played: 40
2021 Games Played: 15
Best: Play strength, athleticism, technique, football IQ, pass protection, run blocking, versatility
Worst: Size/conditioning, leverage consistency
Projection: A starting offensive tackle with scheme versatility and Pro Bowl upside
Alabama’s Evan Neal is a big, athletic, technically savvy and versatile offensive tackle prospect.
Neal has an impressive 40 games of starting experience over the course of his 3-year career at Alabama. He’s started full seasons at left guard, right tackle, and left tackle for the Crimson Tide. He started at left tackle most recently, while playing right tackle in the 2020 season.
Neal is a massive lineman at 6-foot 7 ½ inches and 337 pounds with 34-inch arms and 10-inch hands. However, he carries his weight extremely well with evident power in his upper and lower body, but carries surprisingly little body fat. Neal is a natural “knee-bender” who is generally able to compensate for his height by playing with low hips and pads. He maintains good leverage throughout the play, allowing him to make good use of his natural power and keep defenders from getting under his pads. Neal also makes good use of his arms, establishing contact with good hand placement to win inside leverage. He is very disciplined in his hand usage, jolting and controlling defenders, but doesn’t put himself in danger of being called for holding.
Neal is a good, reliable pass protector on the edge. He features a smooth, balanced kick-slide that allows him to widen the pocket and beat pass rushers to landmarks. Neal has enough foot speed to mirror speed off the edge, as well as the agility to redirect to counter inside moves or b-gap blitzes. He never plays outside of himself and maintains a wide base and good balance, allowing him to easily absorb bullrushes from power rushes.
Neal is also a versatile and very capable run blocker. He has experience executing man-gap, inside zone, and outside zone blocks in Alabama’s diverse offense. Neal fires off the ball with good leverage on down-hill runs and is easily able to move most defenders off the line of scrimmage. He does a good job of working off of double teams and climbing to the second level when necessary as well. Neal shows a good understanding of angles and does a good job of taking half-man leverage to turn defenders and seal off running lanes.
He is also athletic enough to execute zone blocking schemes. Neal has enough quickness and long speed to to stay in phase with his teammates and has little issue getting the defense to flow laterally.
Neal was slimmer and much more athletic as a junior than he was as a sophomore. While there are no concerns about his athleticism or conditioning based on his 2021 tape, his size and history of playing heavier suggest that it’s something worth noting. Neal will need to keep on top of his nutrition as well as his strength and conditioning work to maintain his athleticism throughout his career.
Neal’s height can make slight losses in leverage significant. He has a slight tendency to allow his knees to straighten and bend at the waist when blocking laterally to his right – such as on the back side of an outside zone run or on a reach-block toward the B-gap. It’s unknown how that would transition to right tackle or whether specific coaching could address the issue. It isn’t a big problem overall, but something to note.
Overall Grade: 9.4
Evan Neal projects as a starting offensive tackle with scheme diversity and Pro Bowl upside.
Neal has the potential to start at left or right tackle at the NFL level, increasing his appeal to teams. His experience at guard should allow him to provide depth at either guard position, though that might be more of an “in case of an emergency” option. Neal’s height could make a move inside slightly problematic, if only due to interference with quarterback sight lines over the middle.
Neal’s lower-body flexibility, hip, and pad level address concerns with leverage at the tackle position. He showed no issues keeping his hips and pads down as a pass protector, and only very specific issues with leverage as a run blocker. Neal has remarkably quick and smooth feet for a player his size, and is able to keep up with speed off the edge – in addition to redirecting back inside if necessary. Likewise, he has enough athleticism to recover and salvage a play if he is initially beaten off the snap. Neal can stop power rushes cold and usher speed rushers safely around the pocket.
Neal appeared to be a much better athlete in 2021 than in 2020, and it’s fair to express concerns that he could backslide. Like many players his size, Neal will always need to pay attention to his weight and conditioning. He can have a long and successful career if he maintains his relatively svelte physique, but that could take a concerted effort in the kitchen and weight room.
As it stands now, Neal’s size is an asset and he doesn’t seem prone to many of the issues with leverage, balance, or movement skills associated with similarly mammoth players.