One of the biggest prospects -- literally -- in the 2022 NFL Draft has found his new home. A year after helping Alabama win the national championship, 6-foot-7, 337-pound offensive tackle Evan Neal has landed with the Giants, going No. 7 overall in Thursday's first round. The 21-year-old lineman was widely expected to be one of the first blockers off the board, fresh off an All-American run as the Crimson Tide's blind-side bookend and bringing three years of starting experience across the trenches.
Neal's road to the NFL has been forecast for a while. Not only is the Florida native a nephew of two former pros -- 1989 first-round pick Cleveland Gary and two-time Super Bowl champion Jimmie Jones. He also came out of IMG Academy as one of the top 10 recruits in the country, going on to start at right guard, right tackle and left tackle for Alabama. An SEC All-Freshman honoree in 2019 while playing on the interior, he was voted a team captain during his final college season, at left tackle.
Now, Neal will be charged with protecting quarterback Daniel Jones, presumably as the Giants' starting right tackle in 2022. With reps at multiple spots, it's possible Neal could also challenge former first-rounder Andrew Thomas as the Opening Day left tackle, but the more likely scenario is New York getting the big man on the field immediately, on the other side. Neal's arrival comes after New York addressed pass rusher by adding Oregon's Kayvon Thibodeaux with the fifth-overall selection, marking it a monumental night for the G-Men in terms of trench reinforcements.
Pete Prisco: The Giants land the best tackle in the draft. He will step in at right tackle and give them a nice pair of bookends with Andrew Thomas. They have to protect the quarterback better, and they will. He will be a long-time starter who goes to a lot of Pro Bowls.
Rating: 92.93 (All-Pro)
Pro Comparison: Bigger Andrew Thomas
Strengths: Insanely large, impossibly twitched up for his size. Carries his weight extremely well. Loose-hipped blocker with effortless power, which makes him a tremendous asset at the second level. High-end recovery skills because of his suddenness. Creates huge arc for rushers to run around to the QB. Balance could use some work. All-Pro upside and is mostly NFL ready.
Weaknesses: Can get a little overanxious at the second level and lunge, and the same is true in pass protection. Anchor isn't quite as sturdy as expected given his size. Occasionally, small speed rushers get the best of him.
- 2021: Consensus All-America (two sacks allowed in 15 starts)
- 40 career starts (2020 CFP national champion)