From now until the 2022 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to scout and create profiles for as many prospects as possible, examining their strengths, weaknesses, and what they can bring to an NFL franchise. These players could be potential top 10 picks, all the way down to Day 3 selections and priority undrafted free agents. Today, I’ll be profiling a offensive tackle prospect with the measurables and pedigree to be the favorite to be the first offensive lineman off the board come April.
#73 Evan Neal, OL, Alabama (Junior) – 6070, 350lb
|Player||Ht/Wt||Hand Size||Arm Length||Wingspan|
|Evan Neal||6’7, 350lb||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|40-Yard Dash||10-Yard Dash||Short Shuttle||3-Cone|
|Broad Jump||Vertical||Bench Press|
— Possesses elite size and length on a massive frame
— Better mover in space than expected for the weight that he carries
— Has the quickness off the snap and the athleticism to be an effective puller out in space on a full pull or on a square pull close to the LOS
— Pure size and length make him difficult to get around in pass protection
— Is quick out of his stance in pass protection, having a clean vertical pass set where he gains ground quickly to set the arc of the pocket
— Engulfs defenders as a run blocker when he gets on top of them with his large frame
— Does a good job outstretching his arms when looking for work as a pass protector to the side, taking up lanes for defenders
— Almost impossible to get through when on a combo block with the guard in run fits/pass protection
— Effective down blocker and on kick out blocks, burying defenders down the line or driving them away from the play with sheer strength and size
— Overall mass and power make him an asset to run behind in short yardage/goal line situations
—Won’t cede much ground against defenders coming off the edge that lack size/power
— Possesses position versatility, having played at guard as a freshman, RT as a sophomore, and moving to LT as a junior
— Change of direction and deceleration ability is subpar given the amount of mass and vertical frame he has when compared to his forward motion
— Fails to sustain his blocks past initial contact as he tends to fall off quickly
— Will allow pass rushers the counter inside by oversetting on his vertical pass set
— Will overextend on blocks in the run game and occasionally in pass protection, leading him to fall off blocks
— Has clear balance issues staying upright due to tendency to lunge
— Hand placement can be improved as he will try to put a shoulder into a defender on his run fits and occasionally whiff on his punch in his pass sets
— Telegraphs his punch to the opposition, taking his time to contact a defender
— Accuracy and strength of his punch at the point of attack underwhelms for the measurables he has
— Slow to recognize stunts and twists as he will attempt to double team a man already covered up while leaving a defender looping around to run free
— Seems to be slow at processing what is happening in front of him at times
— Anchor in pass protection needs to improve as he relies too much on reach rather than having ideal hip and knee bend
— Junior prospect from Okeechobee, FL
— Attended powerhouse IMG Academy as a prep athlete
— Named a consensus five-star prospect and a top-three OT recruit in the nation in the 2019 class
— Selected to play in the Under Armor All-America Game
— Started all 13 games of his true freshman season at left guard for the Crimson Tide
— Started 12 games at RT as a sophomore in 2020
— Selected as one of Alabama’s permanent team captains for the 2021 campaign and was recognized as a first team All-American in 2021
— Started 15 games at LT in 2021
— First team All-SEC in 2021
Evan Neal was tasked with manning the blindside for QB #9 Bryce Young this season, being the next in-line of Crimson Tide blockers to be making the transition from college to the pros. Neal has garnered headlines since his time in high school, being recognized as one of the best recruits overall in the nation and favored by many recruiting agencies to be the #1 overall OT prospect. He elected to take his talents to Tuscaloosa to develop under Nick Saban’s watchful eye and compete at the chance for titles, of which he won during the 2020 campaign.
When watching the tape on Neal, one thing immediately sticks out: his size. Neal is a giant of a human being playing on the OL, having the height, size, and length to dwarf other men who are considered large themselves. This mass helps him generate a push upfront on the LOS as we see on this kick out block against Cincinnati, running the defender to the sideline and into the turf.
Neal is a strong, explosive athlete for his size, having the center of mass to displace defenders off their spot once he gets his feet moving here against Auburn this past season where he picks up the DE and walks him clear out of the play, having good hand placement inside the defender’s chest and strong leg drive as he moves the defender out of the play, clearing a big running lane for #4 Brian Robinson.
While being an enormous human being, Neal is surprisingly nimble on his feet for being listed in the 350lb range. He is quick out of his stance both in pass protection and in the run game, having the footwork to be a good puller to the outside as a bully leading up the lane for whoever is running behind him. Here against the Bearcats, we see Neal climb to the second level to pick up #0 Darrian Beavers, running him out of the way for Robinson to run off his backside for a nice gain up the middle.
Neal has a tendency to shoot forward with his shoulders and try and blow up his competition when he has a clear shot on them. Here against Miami, we see Neal drop into his pass set but recognizes he is freed up, immediately deciding to aid the LG by unloading on the defensive lineman by shooting through his shoulder, knocking him down on the highlight block.
His size and length also aid in pass protection, using his long arms to take up space in the gaps and cover a lot of ground with his pass sets. Here we see Neal get out of his pass set looking for work, locating a defender to his left and completely unloads on him, shooting his hips through and levels him to the ground on the highlight block.
As mentioned earlier, Neal has good athleticism for his size and is quick out of his stance in pass protection. He covers ground quickly as a pass blocker, having an active vertical set to set the depth of the pocket. This rep against Notre Dame shows Neal’s active feet from the snap, runner the edge rusher around the arc and out of the play.
While Neal has plenty of highlights in his tape, he also has a lot of inconsistencies that raise cause for concern. Despite exploding through defenders at times when he lunges forward, this leads to a lot of whiffs and balance issues as a run blocker and pass protector. Here against the Hurricanes, we see Neal completely whiff on his block on the defensive lineman as he lunges forward, ending up on the turf as the defense gets penetration and swarms the back in the backfield for a loss.
Here is another example vs Auburn where Neal tries to shoot through the pass rusher without running his feet underneath him, leading to Neal getting overextended and falling to the ground after losing balance.
Despite having quick feet in his pass set, often gives the defender too much space to counter back inside due to oversetting and worrying about keeping the edge contained. This allows the defender to cross his face like we see here against the Tigers on this play. Neal oversets the pass rusher while also shooting his hands and lunges forward, making it easy for the pass rusher to counter inside and pressure Young on the throw.
Neal has a real bad problem of lunging forward on his blocks in pass protection, and it noticeably gets worse as the game goes on. Here are several examples where Neal fails to sustain his blocks and whiffs completely on the block, leading for the defender to work off of him quickly in pursuit of the football.
Along with missing assignments, Neal has a bad problem of not sustaining his blocks in both his run fits and in pass protection. He often tries to lunge forward for the big highlight block while either stalling his feet or playing with a narrow base and a poor anchor, making it easier for defenders to counter his punch and use Neal’s forward momentum against him as his misses his assignment and the defender gets pressure on the quarterback. Watch this rep where Neal is in good position but stalls his feet and gets too upright as the defender gets around the corner, hunting down Young in the pocket for the sack.
Here is another example against Georgia where Neal shoots forward out of his stance and gets too extended into the defender who easily chucks him to the side and to the ground. Luckily for Neal, Young quickly releases the ball down the left sideline before the defender can pressure him.
Overall, the measurables, experience playing multiple spots on the offensive line, and the physical tools are enticing for any scout watching Neal to recognize what he is currently capable of doing and how he can possibly improve going forward. There is no denying he has the power, size, and movement skills required to be a starting-caliber tackle or guard at the next level.
Still, there are too many mental inconsistencies littered throughout his tape to suggest he is ready to be a high-caliber starter from Day One. He needs to clean up the missed blocks and blown assignments we see too often throughout his game tape and needs to be more consistent with syncing up his punch and footwork to sustain his blocks, playing with more consistent aggressiveness and motor to really make his presence felt as it should for a player with his size and power.
His sheer mass, play style, and possible fit in the league reminds me of fellow former Crimson Tide OT D.J. Fluker who too has played both at guard and tackle during his time in the NFL. While Fluker was taken #11 overall by the Chargers back in 2013, he has been a solid, yet unspectacular tackle who suffers the same problems in his play as Neal does, having been transitioned to guard by the Chargers, Seahawks, and Ravens at times during his tenure in the league to better fit his traits.
Neal is best suited for a gap/power run scheme where he can lean his body on others and strictly attack downhill rather than having to adjust to moving defenders around him and rely more on accuracy and timing of his blocks. His best spot would be either at RT or kicking back inside to guard where he can be utilized as a puller and play more in a phone booth and prevent defenders from countering back inside across his face. He has the athleticism to play more in space but will need to clean up his technique especially if a spread offense wants him dropping back in pass protection often with his habit of lunging forward and failing to sustain blocks.
Due to the national hype surrounding Neal due to his measurables, pedigree, and athletic talent, he likely won’t be in play for the Steelers come draft season as he is projected to land somewhere in the Top Ten selections. While he has the talent to develop into a player to warrant that selection, I just am not there on Neal as a prospect and would much rather have Pittsburgh target a tackle prospect with similar athleticism but more consistent tape.
Projection: Early Day One
Depot Draft Grade: 8.4 – Future Quality Starter (Round 2)
Games Watched: vs LSU (2019), vs Notre Dame (2020), vs Mississippi State (2020), LSU (2020), vs Miami (2021), at Auburn (2021), vs Cincinnati (2021), vs Georgia (2021)