It is not every day a left tackle comes along, with the kind of imposing size Alabama’s Evan Neal has.
He stands at a towering 6-foot-7 and 351 pounds, and that is actually smaller than he was in high school when he tipped the scales at 390.
When looking at Neal, the first thing an NFL war-room will like about him is his versatility. Neal has spent time playing left guard and right tackle in the past.
The next thing teams will like is he has played at Alabama for Nick Saban.
A real concern is there are just a handful of guys who have played at this size in recent history at tackle: Trent Brown (6-foot-8, 380 pounds), Bryant McKinnie (6-foot-8, 386), Aaron Gibson (6-foot-6, 375 pounds), Terrell Brown (6-foot-10, 403 pounds) and Mekhi Becton (6-foot-7, 364 pounds). Interestingly enough, only Terrell Brown and Mekhi Becton stayed with the same team, as the rest of these guys played on two or more teams during their NFL careers. That is something to consider when looking for a long-term franchise left tackle.
#73 Evan Neal 6-foot-7, 351 pounds
2021 film review: Miami, Ole Miss, Auburn
Grade: Second Round
Projects: Right Tackle, Guard
Make Sure: to find out how important football is to him, which will be the key to keeping his weight in check.
Huge and versatile tackle with brute strength, good but questionable lateral foot speed with good overall pass pro techniques, and a good-limited area run blocker. Fast first kick step out. Sets up well and maintains a nice wide base. Sturdy and stays in control. Slides well while maintaining balance and base. Strong anchor. Nobody is going to bull rush him. Uses hands well at the point of attack. Does an excellent job sealing off the perimeter and using his techniques and size to be a very good bodyguard. Did show against Miami and Ole Miss speed rushers can get pressure through the backdoor of the pocket. Concerns exist about his lateral foot speed against elite NFL speed rushers. Concerns also about his body control making quick adjustments when pass rushers come back hard to the inside through the front door after setting him up. Only allowed one sack in the three games I viewed. Allows more pressures than sacks. Excellent against games and stunts. Smart football player. Excellent inline and straight-ahead run blocker. Able to hold the point. Road grinder. Poor in space and poor at the 2nd level (Miami and Ole Miss). If he does not have it lined up exactly, he lacks the ability to make quick adjustments in space and it shows consistently. Can lose balance and waist bend in space. Flashes extreme aggression. Very good at sealing off his edge and positional blocking. A real concern exists in pass pro and run blocking that he lets up too soon and his guy gets in there and makes the plays. Solid looking prospect. If he can manage his weight when he gets paid, he will be a great left tackle against 75 percent of the pass rushers in the NFL. If he has a hard time managing his weight, he might project better to right tackle or guard.
Neal moves gracefully for a man his size, but again, it keeps coming back to his weight. It seems the closer he is getting to his payday, the more the weight is getting in check.
Will this stay the case once he gets paid?
If he was tipping 390 in high school – – is this the weight he is most comfortable at?
Carrying an extra forty pounds on the perimeter would undoubtedly take a toll on his lateral foot speed and quickness.
Former NFL offensive lineman Brian Bulaga said if he was an NFL team, he would not draft Neal because of his weight.
Neal is a consensus top-five pick right now, but I can not put him there.
The odds are also not on his side when compared to those who have played the position at his size.
Neal arrived in Alabama at 385. My instincts tell me the weight is going to be an issue. With the weight risk comes an increased chance for injury.
I believe the move to left tackle and the weight loss has more to do with draft stock, getting him paid and Alabama’s future recruiting efforts than anything else.
Daniel Kelly is a former NFL scout with the New York Jets. He was hired on the regime which featured Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick, Scott Pioli, Mike Tannenbaum, and Dick Haley. He currently writes for Sports Illustrated Detroit Lions, Sports Illustrated New York Jets and he is a contributing evaluator for Draft Diamonds. For more information about him visit his website at whateverittakesbook.com. He can be followed on Twitter @danielkellybook and his Facebook page is WHATEVER IT TAKES NFL TALK.