With the 7th pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, the New York Giants selected Evan Neal, an OT out of Alabama. This was a no-brainer pick after the unfolding of several unexpected drafts picks prior. The Giants drafted Kayvon Thibodeaux at 5. The Giants could then sit back and wait for whichever OT was available at 7; Evan Neal or Ikem Ekwonu. Once the Panthers drafted Ekwonu, the unanimous expectation was that the Giants would draft Neal. This expectation was delivered, and fans everywhere were overjoyed.
The Giants have had a struggling offensive line for a decade. There was a serious need for upgrading talent at the offensive tackle position. Evan Neal meets this need. He is perfectly sized for the position and comes with unbelievable strength. His explosive dominance can be seen on nearly every play. He does an incredible job of staying on his blocks. While his pass blocking is phenomenal, there are several areas he could work on.
He needs to be careful not to stay too close to the inside on defensive ends and needs to adjust the balance of his weight distribution (leans too far forward, keeps his head down). Still, he managed to only give up two sacks during the 2021 season. While his pass blocking is excellent, his run blocking is some of the best seen from any prospect in the past decade. It is going to be difficult finding clips of him getting beat on run blocks. Saquon Barkley will be very happy running behind Evan Neal.
Evan Neal playing at Alabama means that he consistently went against some of the best defensive talent in football playing other SEC teams and had the benefit of practicing every day for three years against his own defensive teammates. This gave Evan Neal a huge advantage having to block the best players in football on a daily basis.
Draft Grade: A
Fun Fact: Evan Neal’s father played linebacker for Tulane University, and his two uncles – Cleveland Gary and Jimmie Jones – played in the NFL.