The entire NFL universe knew that the New York Giants were going to draft an offensive tackle with one of their two picks in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft. The one they chose was Evan Neal of Alabama at No. 7.
GM Joe Schoen said Thursday night that the Giants’ top-rated tackles, Neal and Ickey Ekwonu (who went No. 6 to the Carolina Panthers) were “side-by-side.”
So, Schoen said the Giants snagged Neal at No. 7 “because Ickey was gone at six.”
There is, though, much more to it than that.
The Giants plan to play Neal at right tackle, and he is the only one of the three top tackles to have extensive experience at that spot.
“It helps when you’re going to draft a player at number 7 and you get to see him do what you’re going to ask him to do. That makes you feel good,” Schoen said. “We definitely went back, we studied his tape from last season when he was at right tackle and even watched some of the stuff at guard. His versatility is important. One guy goes down in a game, it helps the eight guys you take on game day. If a guy can move around like that and help you out, that’s an added plus, too.”
Neal played guard and both tackles at Alabama. Brent Taylor of SB Nation’s Roll’BamaRoll recently told the ‘Valentine’s Views’ podcast that Neal’s best tape with the Crimson Tide is at right tackle.
“Evan has played multiple positions,” said head coach Brian Daboll. “He’s long — it takes a guy the long route to go to the quarterback. He’s got long arms. He’s a big, massive man, played multiple positions, had a lot of people down at Alabama that I trust and had a lot confidence in him and had a lot of good things to say about him and along with [offensive line coach] Bobby Johnson and [assistant offensive line coach] Tony Sparano, the guys that have looked at him, we thought very highly of him.”
The Giants were not put off by the late rumors of medical issues with Neal.
“On the medical, a lot of times teams share medical grades, and, you know, I think it was 52 percent of the league, there was only 8 percent that had issues with anything with Evan,” Schoen said. “And circling up with that, I think that was a rumor that was out there, but the majority of the teams in the league, again, he started 40 career games; he missed one game because of COVID.
“Our medical staff did a great job. They were on it. Before any of that came out, we went through all that and they mentioned what some teams had concerns with, and our doctors looked at it and they were fine with everything. His play history backs that up.”
So, has Schoen fixed the offensive line? He wouldn’t say that.
“We haven’t been in pads yet. I hope so, but again, there’s going to be competition across all positions, and I feel like we’ve upgraded it from where I was here and we had four or five offensive linemen when you got here, and we’ve added some veteran guys we like, Jamil Douglas, Garcia, Feliciano, Glowinski. We are happy with those guys, Gono,” Schoen said. “And then now adding Evan Neal, I think it’s an interesting group and there’s some interior depth. And Matt Peart, when he comes back, all of a sudden, I think we could potentially be operating from a position of strength at that position.”