2022 NFL Draft Scouting Report


Evan Nean Scouting Report

July 20, 2021 1:00 PM EST


Evan Neal Scouting Report picture

School: Alabama

Height: 6'7"

Weight: 360

Eligibility: SR

Uniform: #73

Position: OT


Evaluated by: Austin Smith
Smith.Austinj14@gmail.com
Twitter: NFLDraftAustin
July 20, 2021

Prospect Overview


2019: 13 G (LG)
2020: 13 G (RT)

A five-star recruit out of Florida, Neal was ranked in the top ten of virtually every recruiting outlet and the top offensive tackle. However, with a pair of future first-round picks starting at tackle in 2019, Neal's best chance to start as a freshman came on the interior, and he instantly latched on to the vacant left guard position.


Evan Neal Scouting Report image 1

It's crazy to think guys like Jedrick Wills, Deonte Brown, and Landon Dickerson were not the biggest players on that offensive line, but the massive Neal instantly stuck out as the giant of the front. Listed at six feet, seven inches, and 360 pounds, Neal is a monster like few Alabama has seen.

As an interior player, Neal was able to play more aggressively as a run blocker thanks to the lack of space, and quickly became an intimidating factor for the Crimson Tide. His performance in his debut campaign earned him Freshman All-American Honors and tabbed him as the next great Alabama lineman to keep an eye on. With Wills moving on to the NFL following the 2019 season, Neal instantly jumped into the right tackle position next to Brown, giving the Crimson Tide over 700 pounds of power on the strong side of their offensive line. That resulted in Najee Harris running wild to earn the Doak Walker Award for the third time in program history.

Also, after ranking third nationally in 2019, surrendering .92 sacks per game, Neal was part of a line that upped their game to .85 per game in 2020. Thanks in large part to this offensive line, Alabama smashed records on the way to a National Championship with Neal playing his best football down the stretch.

Now, the expectations are sky-high for him as a junior. Not only is he named to pre-season All-Conference and All-American lists, but he may be playing his third position in three years. It's widely expected that he will step into Alex Leatherwood's former position at left tackle. If Neal has a big year at the most physically demanding position on the front, his draft stock will soar, regardless of where his best fit is in the NFL.

Evan Neal Scouting Report image 2

Positives

Neal's combination of size, length, and athleticism is too special not to be the primary source of his success. I'm not going to say he has exceptional athleticism, but given how large he is, the mobility he does possess makes it very difficult for anyone to get around him. In pass protection, he displays good lateral movement that puts him in position to wall off the edge of the pocket. Thanks to his long arms, defenders have no choice but to engage him because trying to blow by Neal when he's in proper position will take them out of the play (assuming the quarterback doesn't retreat backward in the pocket).

In the run game, he has the burst to get to the second level on time, as well as the athleticism to become a barrier for his defender. The technique isn't always pretty, and Neal doesn't always get a solid piece of his opponent. Still, he's such a big target to get around that just him being in the way usually takes his man out of the play, and there is certainly no going through him.

As a sophomore, Alabama didn't pull him much as a tackle, but Neal displayed a good ability to get out in front as a lead blocker in those situations during his freshman season. You'd think his size might be a deterrent to the timing on these plays, but he accelerates well.

Another area Neal impresses is in his ability to change direction in pass protection. As the 2020 season went on, he stopped trying to short-set his opponents as much and started getting more depth, and his opponents struggled with it. You'd think space would be his enemy at that size, but he transitions his weight well laterally. It's probably the one area his balance is consistent, which adds to the difficulties in getting around him.

While the balance and pad level aren’t always great, Neal's best reps are typically when he is blocking down. He comes out low and puts a strong punch on his opponent before driving his feet to get the inevitable movement that someone with his size can get on a defender. In these scenarios, Neal exhibits the most confidence in his abilities, and when that happens, he's got a nasty streak that comes out.

Areas for Improvement

While Neal has a lot of success, it's usually because of his physical gifts. He's got a lot of inconsistency with his pad level, balance, and handwork. Neal did improve in some of these areas as the 2020 season went on, but there were games early in the season where I wasn't sure if I thought he could be considered a first-round prospect.

The biggest issue is his balance in most areas of the game. Neal doesn't lunge nearly as much as he did as a freshman, but there are still a lot of areas where his weight gets out in front of them. It happens most in the run game when his man isn't shaded over him. Part stems from Neal not taking the best angles, which also must improve. With being out of position, Neal lunges to try and get a solid shot on his man.

Still, there are times his confidence gets too high as well, and Neal tries to blow his man up with a shove as opposed to locking on and driving them out of the picture. In fact, his punch can be an issue quite often. There are times when he misses his target or doesn't look like he has a target at all with his hands. Hand placement can be vital to success, especially when his opponents are closer to his size. More importantly, hand-placement is essential to locking on to the defender which we don't see very often from Neal. He's more of a bully that shoves guys around rather than a locking on to their breast plate and driving them out of the play. With his hand size, that has to change and if hand-placement doesn't improve, locking on will result in holding penalties.

Also, Neal chooses not to punch at times to try and keep himself on balance and just extends his hands to the opponent. Once again, that won't work against stronger defenders. Whether he needs to get stronger in his core or just do a better job of measuring his punch to keep his weight under him, he's got to get better. As far as his pad level is concerned, he's actually improved on this the most over the last year. However, he still gets too high in his pass sets, negating his ability to sit down and anchor.

I mentioned earlier that Neal is so tough to get around, so almost everyone has to take him on, whether it's trying to muscle through one half or the other or even going straight up the middle. Neal never gets manhandled backward, but he can give some ground. If his pad level is lower, he could drop his butt and absorb that power to halt the rusher in their tracks. That doesn't happen, and it's because he plays so high.

There are other things that Neal can improve on as well. Like I said, his angles need to improve. I'd also like to see him develop better awareness, as he can be late coming off blocks to pick up stunts or blitzes. However, the amount of growth we saw from him in the back half of the season was impressive, and if we continue to see that kind of improvement in 2021, he's going to be one of the top offensive linemen in this class.


Evan Neal Scouting Report image 3

Draft Stock

Neal has first-round physical traits for a right tackle, with developing technique that must take place for him to indeed be in the day-one conversation. He is expected to move to the blindside as a junior, and the level he will have to play at on that side should further raise his stock. However, I'm just not sure if he enters the NFL as a left tackle. As his technique continues to grow and he remakes his body to maximize muscle and minimize body fat, he could eventually handle that role in the NFL.

This being said, Neal would have to show an extraordinary amount of additional polish in 2021 to be drafted with that in mind for his rookie campaign. Still, Neal is a proven worker. Starting at Alabama as a true freshman is no easy task, and his work ethic went viral this summer with some impressive workout videos. His experience at three different positions will also be beneficial at the next level. Whether it's on the right or left, Neal is going to be a tackle. Still, it's an added bonus for someone to know what the players around him are responsible for on a play-by-play basis.

He's been healthy during his time at Alabama, and his pattern of play has been on a constant incline. If he shines on the blind side as a junior, he may not only be the first offensive lineman taken, but it may come in the top ten picks.


Evan Neal Scouting Report image 4

Player Comparison

I'm going to go with a combination of two players. I don't think Neal will be quite the athlete Mekhi Becton was several years ago, but Becton entered the league needing to develop his game further, technically. Unless Neal just has an enormous amount of growth, he will likely be drafted with similar expectations. Still, Becton had imposing size and length and shocking athleticism. As I said, Neal's athleticism may not be as impressive, but it's still going to turn heads.

On the other hand, I do think Neal will be much more athletic than Orlando Brown, but his best fit will be in a gap-heavy scheme. When Brown fires off, he moves bodies, and Neal should be a similar player. In pass protection, Brown's size makes up for pad level and athletic limitations, and while Neal will move better, his size will still need to save him at times. Basically, Neal is between Becton and Brown athletically with more technique development to be desired like Becton and a road grader's mentality like Brown.

Games Evaluated

  • vs Ohio State (1-1-20)
  • vs Texas A&M (10-3-20)
  • vs Georgia (10-17-20)
  • at LSU (12-05-20)
  • vs Florida (12-19-20)
  • vs Notre Dame (1-1-21)
  • vs Ohio State (1-11-21)

Notes from Film

  • Massive player with rare size and length. Big strong hands. Pretty good mobility for a player his size.
  • In his freshman year, I'm noticing a lot of issues with his pad level and balance, which were a bit less costly on the interior. Plays too high far too often which isn't exactly uncommon for a player that young that is listed around six feet, seven inches. A lot of lunging too as opposed to staying patient and allowing his reach to shine. Seeing similar issues early in 2020. He's starting lower but still a lot of lunging. I'll add that there are times when he is bending at the waist as opposed to his knees in what is an attempt to play lower and that's when his balance really goes downhill.
  • He's having a lot of difficulty locking on in these first few games. That's a shame because with his large hands and long arms, this shouldn't be an issue. With his size, once he locks on the play is over for his opponent. Sometimes it's because he doesn't time his punch well. Other times, his hands aren't in a good spot. There are also times it's because his balance is off.
  • The power is definitely there when he gets his hands on someone. Trying to bullrush him is not an option for college defensive linemen and if his balance and pad-level improve, I'm not sure anyone is going through him in the NFL either.
  • I'd like to see his angles improve. There are times he misses with his punch and it's because he's not taking a great angle based on the design of the player relative to where his opponent is lined up. I get that the players he's blocking for don't always stick to the design, but there are examples where the play is coming his way and he puts himself in a very poor position to even slow his opponent.
  • I'll be interested to see how his footwork improves as aa junior, and whether or not he needs to trim down to do it. He's firing out low to start the rep, but Georgia's speed rushers are getting on him so fast that he's leaning back to cut them off as opposed to trusting his feet. It's natural reaction because his feet aren't quite good enough to pick up the pace to stay in position. However, this puts him off balance and takes away his angle to get a proper punch that can slow his opponent. Even if the feet don't get quicker, the drop in weight may be necessary in order to get better hip movement. In these situations, he also struggles to open his hips in order to recover once he's beaten off the edge. For one reason or another, he may need to drop some weight.
  • One issue that I'm starting to see in the Georgia game is he isn't punching in pass protection as much as just extending his arms to the defender. This may be his way of combatting the lunging issues he had in 2019. He's been more patient in his pass sets but he's not punching to slow his opponent. It's a big reason why his opponents are consistently getting a step on him. He's got to clean this up. Punching is not lunging, but it takes a fair amount of core and upper-body strength to get a good punch on the defender without the momentum bringing you off balance. This might be a sign that he needs to remake his body in general and not just slim down.
  • He also needs to clean up his stance in pass protection. His arms are out wide and not tucked to his frame in his kick slide. When it's time to punch and your arms are out wide, you are relying solely on your arms to provide the power. No chest, shoulder or upper back strength. No core strength. It's like widening your hands on bench press. You use less of your total upper body as they get wider. He needs his elbows in tight in order to get a powerful punch.
  • As his sophomore campaign went on, you could see the difference in his confidence blocking for the run and the pass. As a run blocker, he attacks his man with the attitude of a bully. The technique is not perfect, but he's much more confident and aggressive in that area. As a pass protector, I'm just not seeing the same confidence.
  • Best game so far was against LSU. I'm sure the focus and intensity were dialed that week considering what they did to Alabama the year before. His balance was as good as I've seen it to this point, although still not consistent. He played with more confidence in pass protection and to be honest, I think he was just thinking less and competing more. As I said, it wasn't a perfect performance, but he was much more deliberate with his play and trusted his raw ability. Yes, the technique has to improve immensely, but trusting his talent is something he struggled with early in the year as well. That wasn't the case in this one.
  • I was beginning to wonder if he would ever combine enough technical ability with his raw talent to look like a potential first
  • round pick as a sophomore. Against Florida, we are finally seeing it. His angles and balance are both severely improved. His kick slide in pass protection is consistently gaining him enough depth to give him the time to assess the pass rushers pace and angle. That is helping him determine the timing of his punch which is as good as I've seen from him blocking for the pass. He's firing of low in the run game and consistently getting movement. I'd still like to see his hand placement improve so he can lock onto his opponent without being called for holding. That's the next step for him in becoming a serious first-round consideration.
  • He came out for the final drive of the first half against Florida but came back to start third quarter without any form of limitation.
  • Lateral movement is good but not great and it shows up when they try to slide protection. He will initially chip to give his inside man help, but is usually late getting to the edge. However, his size does help in this area.
  • His trajectory through the second half of 2020 season was on a constant upward climb. Notre Dame game is looking even better than Florida tape already. Really driving his feet once he gets on his defender in the run game. I'm not sure how many reps I saw in the first three tapes where he just drove someone backward through the entirety of the play. Notre Dame had several draft picks in their front seven and he's having a day against them.


Scouting Video Courtesy of 917 Productions




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