Jaguars could draft Evan Neal despite Walker Little’s recent success

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 Jacksonville Jaguars are now in full offseason mode and they have their work cut out if they want to right the ship in 2022. Once they hire a head coach, the team’s brass will turn their focus to making upgrades to the roster. One item at the top of the Jags’ to-do list is to decide whom they will choose with the first overall pick in this year’s draft.

Even though the Jaguars beat the Indianapolis Colts in Week 18, they clinched the first overall selection for the second year in a row because the Detroit Lions defeated the Green Bay Packers and finished the season with a better record. There are several paths the team can take in the draft and taking offensive tackle Evan Neal seems like the best and most likely outcome. Chris Trapasso of CBS Sports sees Jacksonville taking the Alabama product in his most recent mock draft.

Trapasso believes the Jags should target Neal regardless of where they pick. He goes on to describe the Alabama offensive tackle as a “gigantic athletic marvel”. The selection would make sense as Cam Robinson is slated to become a free agent this upcoming season. Although re-signing him isn’t off the table, rolling the dice on Walker Little also makes sense.

The Jaguars need to upgrade their offensive line in 2022.

Robinson had a strong second half in 2022 and was arguably the Jaguars’ best offensive lineman, posting a 67.3 Pro Football Focus grade, the highest mark in his five-year career. Moreover, he allowed a manageable 31 pressures and just one sack. However, he was placed on the COVID-19/Reserve list and missed the last two games of the season, which paved the way for Little to start.

Little showed promise in those two games, posting PFF grades of 77.2 and 70.8 respectively. Despite the fact that the Jaguars were embarrassed by the New England Patriots in Week 17, the former Stanford Cardinal didn’t allow a single pressure in 32 pass-blocking snaps, which is worth recognizing when you take into account that he had barely played in 2021. The following week, he gave up just one pressure against the Colts. Furthermore, he didn’t commit a single penalty. It may be a small sample but the Jaguars should feel comfortable moving on from Robinson in the offseason and leaving Little at left tackle.

If that’s the course of action Jacksonville takes, they can draft Neal first overall and plug him in at right tackle. They could then use their cap space and even other draft picks to fortify their interior offensive line. Another alternative would be to re-sign Robinson, move Little to the right side, and have Neal line at guard. The bottom line is that Neal could be a foundational player, one the Jaguars’ shouldn’t pass off and would make their offensive line better regardless of where he lines up.

The Jaguars need to help Trevor Lawrence and give optimal protection in 2022. Walker Little and Evan Neal could ensure that happens.

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