The Jacksonville Jaguars’ offensive line has been solid this season. However, the unit would surely welcome a boost next offseason, and the Jags might just be in a position to take top offensive tackle prospect Evan Neal in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Trevor Sikkema of Pro Football Focus projected in a recent mock that Jacksonville will choose the Alabama standout with the third overall pick in next year’s selection meeting.
Regarding the pick, Sikkema points out that Neal has given up just eight total pressures and hasn’t surrendered a sack in 2021. Moreover, he notes the junior offensive tackle has a “rare blend of size and athleticism” to play the position. Neal, along with teammates Will Anderson and Bryce young, was just named to the Associated Press’ Midseason All-America team, so it’s clear he’s getting consideration as a top prospect ahead of 2022. In fact, other Alabama players believe he should be selected high in the draft.
Earlier this year, draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah of NFL Media described Neal as gargantuan and praised his “surprisingly number feet and “quickness”. He also raved about his size, his ability to bend, and his penchant for finishing blocks. On the other hand, he has a hard time adjusting in space when facing off against athletic second-level defenders. Jeremiah projects Neal as a right tackle in the NFL but says teams might consider plugging him in on the left side.
Evan Neal would be an upgrade at left tackle for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Jaguars are currently 1-5, and there’s a good chance they will get a high draft pick in 2022. This would leave them in a position to land Neal, who would be an upgrade at either position. Left tackle Cam Robinson and right tackle Jawan Taylor have been solid this season but neither one has been particularly great. The team has rookie Walker Little riding the bench and it’s uncertain when (if) he will play in 2021.
Robinson is set to become a free agent next offseason and Taylor will be entering the last year of his rookie contract. It would be a good idea to start replenishing the offensive line and the Jags may be able to do it if they draft Neal, who could take over either side. Keep in mind that the Florida native lined up at left guard as a true freshman in 2019. He then moved to right tackle last year and is currently thriving at left tackle. This kind of flexibility could entice the Jags to target him in the draft.
The draft is still several months away but the Jacksonville Jaguars have already started to put their big board together. Surely Neal’s name has come up more than once. It may not make sense to trade Robinson now but he might not be back in Jacksonville next year. Also, Taylor could keep improving and show he’s the long-term answer at right tackle. However, the Jags need to start planning ahead and consider using their first-round pick on Neal, who could have an immediate impact up front.