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Evan Neal Landing Spots: Alabama’s big man is OT1 in the 2022 NFL Draft

A surefire Pro Bowler and even potential All-Pro early on in his career, where does Evan Neal land in the 2022 NFL Draft?

This isn’t difficult. This isn’t hard. It shouldn’t be, at least. Evan Neal is a big deal and a special prospect. Neal is a virtual lock for the Pro Bowl in a few years, potentially even All-Pro. As Alabama’s left tackle closes out his collegiate career in the CFP National Championship Game, what is Neal’s proverbial NFL Draft ceiling? And more importantly to a few fan bases, what is his draft floor?

Evan Neal is OT1 in the 2022 NFL Draft

There isn’t a reason to overthink this. Sometimes draft evaluations get too cute. Other times they forgo players because they didn’t see their names called in the box score. Neither should be the case for Neal.

Neal is a sure thing. A rock-solid prospect. At 6’7″, 351 pounds, Neal is a big deal. If you’re a fan of an NFL franchise, you should want him protecting your quarterback and blocking for your running backs. Unfortunately for 31 other teams, they’ll have to face him regularly in the very near future. So, which fan bases should be on the lookout for Neal as the next step of his football career will be as a high 2022 NFL Draft pick?

Don’t mess this up, New York

The New York franchises have half of the first eight picks in the 2022 NFL Draft. There should be no reality that they don’t end up with Neal before the ninth pick comes. The only way either the Jets or Giants don’t come away with Neal is if one of the other four teams in the top eight select him first.

The Jets will need a cornerstone protector aside from Mekhi Becton for Zach Wilson. That is, of course, if Becton plays for New York in 2022. If Becton has truly played his last game for the Green and White, the first of the two picks for the Jets should be spent on Neal.

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Then comes the Giants, currently projected to select with the fifth overall pick. Sure, they have other needs. Okay, they may even grab a QB despite stating they’ll be riding with Daniel Jones for at least one more year. But let’s face it, whoever the quarterback is, the Giants need help along the offensive line.

With the value of left tackles skyrocketing over the past few years, the ability to land a rock-solid LT on a rookie contract is too much to pass up. If the Jets don’t grab Neal at No. 4, the Giants should certainly do so at No. 5. If they don’t grab Neal with the seventh or eighth picks, well, then we’re talking about the steal of the draft for the Washington Football Team at ninth.

Alleviate your problems, Carolina

There’s a pretty good chance that the New York franchises overlook Neal with their top first-round picks. If that is the case, the Carolina Panthers shouldn’t run to draft Neal, they should sprint. Sure, the Panthers have a big question to answer at QB but they also need more than their fair share of help on the offensive line.

As injuries have decimated them in recent years, going into the 2022 season without upgrading the most important position on the line would be tantamount to a crime. Rocking up with Cameron Erving or Dennis Daley when you could have had Neal should be a firable offense. And that’s not necessarily a dig to Erving or Daley — it is more of a compliment to Neal.

The Panthers are the last shot before the New York franchises have their second chance to grab Neal’s services. It’d be a wild ride and a collective shock if Neal didn’t get selected by either of these three teams.

Other teams that could select Neal

If all goes to plan, there aren’t many teams that could land Neal in actuality. Nevertheless, here are a few franchises that could be in position to.

Detroit Lions – Pick No. 2

Houston Texans – Pick No. 3

Washington Football Team – Pick No. 9 (don’t walk, run Ron Rivera)

Cam Mellor is the Senior Director of the College Football/NFL Draft vertical for Pro Football Network. He is also the co-host of Between the Hashes, a college football and NFL draft podcast. You can find his writing here. Follow him on Twitter @CamMellor

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