In each of the last three years, Alabama has had an offensive tackle selected in the first round of the NFL Draft. In football, as in all of life, good things often come to an end. Not this year, however. In the gargantuan Evan Neal, the Crimson Tide have a potential 2022 NFL Draft first-round talent on the offensive line. What does Neal’s scouting report tell us about the next great Alabama OT’s prospects?
Evan Neal NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Offensive Tackle
- School: Alabama
- Current Year: Junior
- Height: 6’7″
- Weight: 360 pounds
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Evan Neal Scouting Report
It would be malpractice to begin Neal’s scouting report anywhere other than his enormous frame. At 6’7″ and 360 pounds, Neal is a roadblock in every sense of the word. When coupled with impressive arm length, it’s almost unfair for opposing pass rushers who have to try and find a way around him.
With a man of Neal’s size, you would question his mobility and athleticism. Yet, there are no concerns there. Neal moves incredibly well for his size and demonstrates impressive play speed. This has been evident both as a guard in 2019 and as an offensive tackle in 2020. He can get out to the next level to take on linebackers and showcases tremendous explosion out of his stance.
So Neal ticks the boxes for size and play speed. How about strength?
The Alabama OT has plenty of it. He’s a genuine people mover, whether by utilizing his powerful punch or driving them downfield with his imposing lower body. Neal is rarely overpowered in pass protection and helps carve open running lanes. In addition to his play strength, Neal plays the game with a competitive toughness.
Areas for improvement
Having praised Neal’s size, his weight will be an area to keep a close eye on. It isn’t an area for improvement, but you wouldn’t want to see him gain any more weight and compromise his impressive mobility. Former teammate Deonte Brown is the perfect example of how that can impact a player’s draft stock.
One area that Neal will want to exhibit improvement during the coming season is technique. The Alabama OT is partial to lunging at opposing defenders. This causes Neal to throw his weight over his toes, unbalancing him and making him susceptible to pull moves. There are multiple examples of him hitting the deck when this occurs, both at tackle and guard.
Neal’s Player Profile
Neal grew up in the small Floridian city of Okeechobee, perhaps more famous for its 1920s Category 5 hurricane than the handful of players that made it big in the NFL. Nevertheless, one of those players in that handful holds family ties to the young Alabama OT.
Neal is the nephew of Jimmie Jones, who emerged from Okeechobee to be a two-time Super Bowl winner with the Miami Dolphins. Another uncle is Cleveland Gary, the 1990 NFL rushing touchdown champion.
With a father who also played linebacker for Tulane, you could say that football is in Neal’s DNA.
Before his sophomore season at Okeechobee High School, Neal earned the opportunity to transfer to the prestigious IMG Academy in Brenton. The program is a pipeline to college football, and subsequently, the NFL. Although Neal described it as a “hard decision” to leave his hometown high school, he also knew it was “an opportunity I can’t overlook.”
Not that the massive young man himself was being overlooked
As early as May 2016, Neal was already courting colleges, committing to Alabama before rescinding his commitment following an offer from Miami. With family ties to the program, the Hurricanes would be a key player throughout his recruitment process. He would receive over 20 bids, taking visits to FSU, Georgia, and Oklahoma, in addition to Alabama and Miami.
A true man amongst boys, Neal’s size would be both beneficial and problematic during his high school career. At 6’7″, he possessed the height and length to stave off opponents easily. Still, his weight would be a cause for concern. At one point, Neal tipped the scales at 390 pounds. This prompted NFL offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga to tell a trainer at IMG that he wouldn’t draft him if he were an NFL team.
Despite that assertion, Neal’s performances on the field for IMG earned him an invite to the Under Armour All-American Game, and college programs clamored for his signature.
Neal was the No. 1 offensive tackle in the class, a five-star prospect who was a top-10 player in the 2019 recruiting class. In December 2019, he committed to Alabama, declaring, “I want to be the best, and to be the best you have to compete with the best.”
Neal’s career at Alabama
Neal would get the opportunity to compete with the best immediately upon arrival in Tuscaloosa. Although he played offensive tackle for IMG, he started all 13 games of his true freshman campaign at left guard.
Neal was a part of an Alabama offensive line that allowed less than 1 sack per game, with just 12 sacks on 406 pass attempts during the 2019 season. Furthermore, he helped open running lanes for a ground game that rushed for 5 yards or more on 44% of their plays.
Individual success on the offensive line can often be challenging to gauge. Yet, Neal was credited with not allowing a sack, hurry, or pressure in 10 of his 13 games as a true freshman. Moreover, he was named a Freshman All-American by multiple outlets and earned Freshman All-SEC honors from the conference coaches.
Following his successful freshman season, Neal made the transition to OT for Alabama as a sophomore. With Jedrick Wills headed to the NFL and Alex Leatherwood moving to left tackle, Neal started at right tackle for 13 games of Alabama’s title-winning campaign.
The Crimson Tide offense was prolific, with Najee Harris setting a school record for touchdowns in a single game against Ole Miss. That game also saw the second most offensive yards by a Crimson Tide team in school history.
DeVonta Smith took home the Heisman Trophy, but the offensive line also won awards
Alabama’s unit secured the Joe Moore Award as the best offensive line in the nation after allowing just 0.85 sacks per game and springing the ground attack for the most rushing touchdowns in college football.
Neal’s contribution was once again spectacular. On 810 snaps, he was credited with conceding just 1.5 sacks, 4 quarterback hurries, and 3 pressures. He also was called for just 3 penalties and missed only 6 assignments all season. Despite all the offensive weaponry, it was their behemoth of a right tackle who took home Offensive Player of the Week honors after the clash with Mississippi State.
For what will potentially be his final season in Alabama, Neal will move to left tackle. If his junior season is as impressive as his previous two campaigns, there is no reason to believe that Neal won’t continue the first-round Alabama OT streak at the 2022 NFL Draft.