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Instant analysis: Evan Neal bookends Giants’ offensive line

What does Evan Neal mean for the Giants’ offense?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 31 CFP Semifinal - Goodyear Cotton Bowl - Cincinnati v Alabama Photo by Matthew Visinsky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The New York Giants opted to be patient when all three of the top offensive tackles were available for the fifth overall pick. They were rewarded just two picks later with Alabama offensive tackle Evan Neal.

So what does this mean for the Giants’ offense?

The most obvious is that the Giants now have two big, athletic, and versatile bookends with plenty of experience against some of the best defensive linemen in college football.

The selection of Evan Neal might not “fix” the Giants’ offensive line in and of itself. A good (or great) offensive line is one single unit, not five good (or great) players. Forging that unit will take time and work from the coaching staff and the players themselves. But it certainly helps to have quality ingredients.

The Giants managed to hold their water and still snag my top offensive lineman in the whole draft. Evan Neal is obviously a mammoth and powerful lineman, but his athleticism belies his size. Neal has quick, light feet, good lateral mobility, and the ability to redirect back inside or recover quickly if initially beaten.

It’s easy to assume that the 6-foot-7, 337-pound right tackle is a powerful run blocker (and he is), but Neal is also a smooth and reliable pass protector. He has the anchor to stop power rushers in their tracks, as well as the lateral agility to widen the pocket and block speed rushers off the edge.

Neal is also a scheme diverse tackle with experience in inside zone and outside zone blocking schemes, as well as man-gap schemes. Neal has the ability to play in just about any blocking scheme Brian Daboll and Mike Kafka will call. Unlike many lineman who are limited to man-gap schemes due to a lack of athleticism, or zone schemes due to a lack of power, Neal can execute all of them.

Likewise, Neal’s ability as a pass protector should help alleviate pressure off the edge. The Giants will still want to use their scheme to slow down pass rushes, but Neal should help the Giants attack more of the field. Alabama ran a diverse, modern “pro style” offense, and Neal has the ability to hold up on the types of concepts he will hear called in the Giants’ offense.

Perhaps most importantly, Neal should have a minimal learning curve as he comes into the NFL. Not only did he get great coaching at Alabama and is already a good technician, but he has experience at the position he’ll be asked to play for the Giants. Neal won’t solve all of the Giants’ problems on offense, but he should be a plug-and-play starter who can solve a more than a few and give the Giants a solid foundation moving forward.