By Chris Schisler
The Baltimore Ravens have the 14th pick in the 2022 NFL Draft and the offensive line is at the forefront of their draft needs. It seems like a good place to start our draft coverage is with a look at one of the big guys coming into the NFL. Today we take a look at Evan Neal, the big left tackle from Alabama.
NFL Draft prospect: Evan Neal
Neal is 21 years old and he’s got a mammoth build. The first thing that pops into my head as I started studying him is how much he’s built like Orlando Brown Jr., and how perfect of a fit he could be with the Ravens. This is a 6’7 prospect weighing in at about 350 pounds. It’s safe to say that he has the things that you can’t coach.
Neal has very proactive hands as a pass protector, and his length gives defensive ends fits. His length and reach are elite traits and his hand placement is impressive. Getting inside leverage against Neal is an uphill battle. Neal does a tremendous job anchoring and sinking his hips. The only way through Neal is around him. Getting through him takes a bull rush few players possess, getting inside of him is a hard mission.
For the most part, Neal’s footwork is solid. It’s not elite footwork, he’s not Ronnie Stanley and he’s not an explosively quick prospect like Rashawn Slater was a year ago. This is an old fashion monster on the outside of the offensive line. He can swallow up pass rushers with his size and he has great mirroring skills, he’s hard to fool.
He’s a typical first-round prospect from Alabama in the sense that while he’s not perfect you have a good idea of what you’re going to get. The knocks on Neal aren’t deal-breakers. He’s a heavy mover and while he’s decently athletic, it’s an awkward athleticism. Sometimes he misses his target as a run blocker and it would be nice to see him be more of a mauler in the run game.
Neal’s kick-slide is a bit stiff and could get him more ground. Neal plays at an inconsistent pad level, at times he’s a little too upright. Neal is kind of the opposite of Alex Leatherwood was last year coming into the draft from Alabama. Leatherwood was a very experienced and polished tackle prospect but could have used a little more length and things you can’t coach. Neal has unbelievable measurables but needs some polish.
Could the Ravens draft Neal?
The Ravens could be in play for Neal. It very much depends on the way the draft board breaks down and who picks up the most momentum at the tackle position. Last year two offensive tackles went before the 14th pick. Alex Leatherwood and Christian Darrisaw fell a bit later though. If Neal enters the draft considered the third best tackle (Which isn’t out of the realm of possibility) the Ravens could have a good shot at the Alabama product.
One thing to note is that every draft is different. In 2020 four offensive tackles were off the board before the 14th overall pick. In 2019 there was only one offensive tackle taken in the top 20 selections. It’s going to be fun to get to know the offensive tackles in the 2022 crop.
NEXT POST: Baltimore Ravens coaching staff: 2021 exit assessment
Neal would be a common-sense replacement to Orlando Brown Jr.. a player Eric DeCosta didn’t skillfully replace for the 2021 season. Neal isn’t the same player. Brown was a more brutal run blocker coming into the league and Neal is a little more natural of a pass blocker. That’s the player comp I keep coming back to though, and if I’m right, the Ravens have to be interested in this prospect.