Evan Neal puts Jaguars in burden-of-choice situation in 2022 NFL Draft

Alabama Crimson Tide offensive lineman Evan Neal (73). Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Alabama Crimson Tide offensive lineman Evan Neal (73). Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

The good news for the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2022 is they don’t need to draft a quarterback, as they took Trevor Lawrence in this year’s selection meeting. The bad news is most position groups are in need of upgrades. On the bright side, they’re set to have a high pick in 2022’s draft and will be in a position to choose a top prospect, including offensive tackle Evan Neal, which was their pick in a recent mock draft.

Draft analyst Todd McShay recently put together a 32-team, first-round mock draft, and projects the Jags will take Neal with the third overall pick. McShay believes the Alabama product would be an upgrade over either Cam Robinson or Jawaan Taylor, the Jaguars’ current starters, and notes that offensive linemen Andrew Norwell, A.J. Cann, and Robinson are set to be free agents in 2022. So why should Jacksonville pick Neal? Here are McShay’s thoughts:

"Neal is the clear top tackle in the class, and he brings versatility, the ability to ride speed rushers past the quarterback, and the range to help get running backs James Robinson and Travis Etienne Jr. (remember, the Jags’ other 2021 first-rounder returns next season) extra yards at the second level."

The Jaguars will either hold the second or third overall pick next year, so they will have a realistic shot to land Neal. The Florida native has a 6-foot-seven, 360 frame and top athleticism. Moreover, he has shown the flexibility to line up at different spots of the offensive line, which would give Jacksonville the flexibility to plug him in wherever they need him the most. He could play left tackle if Cam Robinson becomes a free agent or could take Jawaan Taylor’s spot on the right side if Robinson stays.

The Jaguars have options at the top of the 2022 NFL draft.

This isn’t the first time Neal has been mocked to the Jags. All things considered, it wouldn’t be a bad pick. Their offensive line has struggled in recent weeks and is in dire need of an infusion of talent. They must make upgrades next offseason if they want to give Lawrence optimal protection. Having said that, offensive tackle is not the only position the team must address in 2022.

The Jags need to add a wide receiver, another pass rusher to play opposite Josh Allen, maybe a cornerback and possibly a safety and they will be in a position to draft Jameson Williams (wide receiver) Aidan Hutchinson (defensive end), Kayvon Thibodeaux (defensive end), Derek Stingley Jr. (cornerback), and Kyle Hamilton (safety).

You could make the case it’s a good thing the Jags have options but the truth is that they have a burden-of-choice kind of situation at hand. They could take any direction and it would be alright… as long as they make the right pick. They have often held top 5 draft selections and squander almost all of them. Outside of Josh Allen, their recent top 10 draft picks have left much to be desired. They moved on from cornerback C.J. Henderson one year after making him the ninth overall pick, and their 2018 first-round pick defensive tackle Taven Bryan doesn’t seem to be in their long-term plan.

Drafting Neal might not be “sexy” but if the Jaguars believe he can be their left tackle for the next then years, they must turn in the card with his name when they’re on the clock. Then again, they will have several options in the draft and they need to take the time to assess each one of them.

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