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Seahawks 2022 NFL Draft Big Board: Top-10 (3/11/22)
What makes Evan Neal the ideal player for Seattle at pick 9
Today: Why Alabama offensive tackle Evan Neal won’t be drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Why the Jaguars seem certain to draft Aidan Hutchinson or Kayvon Thibodeaux. Why Neal’s ideal NFL position could suit him perfectly for the Seahawks and also potentially cause him to slide outside of the top-five picks.
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This big board is based on the idea that any player in the draft could be available to the Seahawks at pick nine. This is not an overall big board based on what I think of all the prospects in general. This is a big board based on fit for the Seahawks only. This is also the first big board I’m doing and it is subject to change over the coming weeks.
Seahawks 2022 Big Board Top-10
1. OT Evan Neal, Alabama
2. DE Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan
3. DE Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon
4. OT Ikem Ekwonu, NC State
5. DE Travon Walker, Georgia
6. DT Jordan Davis, Georgia
7. OT Trevor Penning, Northern Iowa
8. S Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame
9. C Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa
10. OT Bernhard Raimann, Central Michigan
Neal’s placement here atop Pete Carroll’s list can be summed up by The Draft Network’s “Ideal Role” for him at the next level: “A dominant run blocking RT.”
Despite how often he’s been mocked to the Jaguars at one, you wouldn’t know that Neal was a projected top overall pick based on his scouting report at TDN. Here are some excerpts of the negatives:
Balance: Neal has great linear movement but struggles to redirect laterally due to balance issues. In the run game, he gets too far over his feet and it causes him to miss defenders. His pass set can be thrown off-balance when defenders use quick counter pass-rush moves. Quicker defenders force him to use reactionary athleticism, which is not a strong trait of his and exposes his balance issues when moving laterally.
Lateral Mobility: This is the biggest question mark of Neal’s game. He lacked elite quickness to react laterally to defenders’ counter moves in pass protection. Displayed average ability to redirect when working to second-level defenders when trying to run block, resulting in him missing blocks.
Football IQ: He demonstrates average Football IQ. Struggled to ID blitzers and what guys to pick up, resulting in free blitzers to the QB.
Anchor Ability: Displays the ability to anchor on defenders, but it is an average trait of his. Balance and lateral movement issues negatively affect his ability to anchor. Speed-to-power pass rushers can give him issues because of his lack of ability to get reset and synchronize his lower half to anchor on defenders.
Prospect Comparison: Marcus McNeill (2006 NFL Draft, San Diego Chargers)
I expected fewer words dedicated to the projected number one overall pick’s question marks.
To save space, I’ve left out the positive traits, but the summary is that Evan Neal is a huge player who knows how to use his 6’7, 337 lb frame to generate power at the point of attack to demoralize opponents. Potentially he could be the next Andrew Whitworth if all worked out at left tackle.
So why is he being compared to McNeill, the 50th overall pick in the 2006 draft and a flash in the pan Pro Bowler who had a short NFL career? Marcus McNeill was at times a very good player, but is this draft class so weak that he would get drafted first overall?
I heavily endorse the Boom or Bust: NFL Draft Show on YouTube and they noted how Neal’s unique combination of size and athleticism makes him a great tackle prospect with versatility:
They also compared him to Mekhi Becton, who was not a top-10 pick. None of the three hosts in the video had him as a top-six player and they all said that he could go 10th or later. And yet Evan Neal remains the consensus most-often drafted first overall pick in mock drafts.
Neal skipped doing drills at the combine, reportedly saying that he wanted to focus on preparing for his pro day. I think it’s fine for players to skip the combine actually, but I do wonder if the scouting reports about his struggles to move laterally will show up in some of the drills. He’s a huge person, so I wouldn’t necessarily expect his speed-based tests to look great in comparison to lighter tackles, but is it possible he could be considerably slower?
Running an eight second three-cone drill, for example, wouldn’t be terrible. The only tackles in the last 10 years to be drafted in the first round and run slower than 8.2 are Isaiah Wilson and Tytus Howard. The only ones to go in the second round were Vlad Ducasse, Menelik Watson, Rob Havenstein (good player), and Cody Ford.
This isn’t an argument against drafting Evan Neal, but it is probably an argument against certain teams in the top-10 drafting Evan Neal. If the Jaguars want to draft a left tackle to come in and protect Trevor Lawrence next season, Neal doesn’t sound like the player to do that. It sounds like Neal needs a lot of coaching, experience, and development when it comes to being a franchise left tackle.
That would be a considerable task for Jacksonville’s 36-year-old offensive line coach Phil Rauscher. Last season with the Vikings was Rauscher’s first ever year as an offensive line coach.
And it’s not as though Doug Pederson or offensive coordinator Press Taylor have 24 hours a day to make sure that the franchise’s top overall pick is being given every possible chance to succeed by overseeing Neal’s development—given that the Jaguars have one of those already and he’s the golden boy.
However, if the Jaguars draft Aidan Hutchinson or Kayvon Thibodeaux, they can sleep well at night knowing that defensive line coach Brenston Buckner (12 years in the NFL, nine seasons as an NFL defensive line coach) is taking care of the team’s second number one pick in two years.
I don’t believe that Doug Pederson is going to draft Evan Neal. It will be Hutchinson or Thibodeaux, if they don’t trade down.
That’s one example of a team that I don’t see being a fit for Neal, who I am also not sure has the typical scouting report of a number one overall pick. His scouting report is that he might be the next Shaquille O’Neal. It could happen for him, it just doesn’t sound as though it is happening as soon as the Jaguars would need it to in order to protect Trevor Lawrence.
If the Seahawks were in position to draft Evan Neal at nine, that would make a lot more sense as an ideal fit. Here’s a 3-minute scouting report from Sam Gold:
Seattle could start Neal at right tackle from the very first day of training camp and if he didn’t move from that position for the rest of Pete Carroll’s career, he’d probably still consider that a success. If the Seahawks can re-sign Rashaad Penny and draft Neal, then his vision for a 1,500-yard season off the right side might come true.
And it does seem like Seattle’s need on the right side is greater than their need on the left. There are notable connections to be made between Seahawks offensive coordinator Shane Waldron and Rams’ free agent left tackle Joseph Noteboom.
In the long-term, Neal would still have the potential to transition to a franchise left tackle. If Seattle gets the opportunity to pick him at nine, there’s nobody else in the draft who makes as much sense as him.
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