The New York Giants had the fifth and seventh overall picks in the 2022 NFL Draft. The entire football world knew that the Giants had little choice but to use one of those two picks on an offensive tackle to help their long-beleaguered line.
But, which one?
The answer turned out to be Evan Neal of Alabama, taken with pick No. 7. Let’s turn our attention to Neal as we continue our player-by-player profiles of the Giants’ 90-man roster.
By the numbers
Position: Right tackle
Contract: Four years, $24.551 million [Fully guaranteed] | 2022 cap hit: $4.463 million
Career to date
Neal had a dominant career for the Crimson Tide during which he played left guard and both tackle spots, starting all 40 games he played in over three seasons. Neal was a consensus first-team All-American in 2021.
In his draft guide, Dane Brugler of The Athletic called Neal “an immediate NFL starter with Pro Bowl potential and multi-position versatility.”
Sports Info Solutions rated Neal among the best in the country in a host of blocking categories:
In a pre-draft appearance on the ‘Valentine’s Views’ podcast, Brent Taylor of SB Nation’s Roll Bama Roll told us that he thought Neal was “the best offensive lineman in the country” when he played right tackle as a sophomore.
“I think Neal’s a pretty sure bet,” Taylor said.
Neal, barring injury, will be the Giants’ starting right tackle as a rookie. He will join left tackle Andrew Thomas, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, to give the Giants a pair of young bookends they hope to build their offensive line around for the next several seasons.
The Giants need Neal to grow up quickly as an NFL player. With so much importance to the franchise’s future in the evaluation of quarterback Daniel Jones and so much emphasis on achieving at least competent offensive play after years of being one of the league’s worst offenses, blocking difficulties at a critical spot like right tackle would not be welcome.
Giants’ fans remember all too well the rookie struggles of Thomas, who gave up more quarterback pressures than all but one other tackle in 2020.
Duke Manyweather of OL Masterminds, who has worked with Neal since high school, told the ‘Valentine’s Views’ podcast that “I thought Evan was the best tackle in the draft” and that Neal should have a “smoother transition” than did Thomas.
“It wasn’t fair for Andrew Thomas to come into the Giants situation that he was in in terms of the conflict between offensive line coaches and head coach and offensive coordinators,” Manyweather said. “It was really just a perfect storm that a rookie franchise tackle did not need to be involved in.
“I think Evan’s transition is going to be smoother. I think with (OL coach) Bobby Johnson and then also with (assistant OL coach) Anthony Sparano Jr. those are two really solid offensive line coaches ... I think you’re going to see a cleaner product.”
Johnson said this spring that he quickly learned that Neal “wants to be really good,” and that making sure Neal doesn’t feel too much pressure is part of his job.
“Those kids already have enough pressure on ‘em. He was drafted in the top 10, he came to New York City. That alone is enough pressure to crush a player,” Johnson said. “My job is to develop him. My job is to help him exceed his expectations, and everyone else’s.
“I will stunt his development if I try to exert any more pressure than is already there ... I don’t need to apply any more pressure than what’s there. He had enough pressure the day he was drafted.”
If Neal can be at least competent as a rookie, and show the upside to get better, the Giants have a chance to have functional offensive line play in 2022.