Analyzing what the NY Giants are getting in Evan Neal
By Toby Grundy
With the 7th overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, the NY Giants selected Alabama offensive tackle, Evan Neal. The Giants desperately needed help at the tackle position, and coming away with one of the top three tackles was a goal of every Giants fan heading into day one. Now that Neal is officially a Giant, let’s take a look at what the Giants are getting in the player, and how he will impact the Giants.
What are the NY Giants getting in Evan Neal?
The term “blue chip” certainly comes to mind when thinking about Neal. He started three seasons at one of the most successful college football programs in the nation in Alabama. Nick Saban’s program has featured some of the most talented college linemen in the country including Landon Dickerson and Alex Leatherwood who were both drafted in the first two rounds of the 2021 NFL draft. Three years starting on a unit as talented as Alabama shows the incredible quality he possesses.
I mentioned Neal started three seasons in Alabama. What I didn’t mention, however, is that all three seasons were at different positions. In 2019 and 2020 Neal started at left guard and right tackle respectively, playing the entirety of 2021 at left tackle. In his over 2,000 snaps split between the three positions, he only gave up five sacks – an incredibly impressive statistic considering the talented defenses present in the SEC.
The Giants have landed the most well-rounded tackle in the class, with Neal being impressive in both pass protection and run support at all positions he has played. He has perhaps the best technique of any of the top offensive tackles and at over 6″7′ and 337 lbs he was by far the biggest of the group. It’s not only his frame that scored a 10/10 according to PFF, his explosiveness features the same score.
As you can see by Daniel Jeremiah’s comments on the Alabama tackle, he should materially improve both the passing and running games in New York:
"In the passing game, he has the foot quickness to handle speed rushers. He uses his length to keep his chest clean and has a firm anchor versus power rushers. He can bend his knees and sink his weight, but there are times when he gets too aggressive, lunges and winds up on the ground. In the run game, Neal has strong hands and lower-half power to generate movement at the point of attack. He has the athleticism to adjust at the second level and in space on screens."
The lower body power Jeremiah points out is some of the most impressive ever seen at the college level. As reported by The Athletic, Neal tested in the top 1% of athletes measured when it comes to jumping power. A key reason he finished top of the class in Bruce Feldman’s 2021 college football freak list.
What does it mean for the NY Giants?
With Giants left tackle Andrew Thomas taking a step forward at the position in 2021, Joe Schoen has already confirmed Neal will start at right tackle according to Zack Rosenblatt.
The decision to start Neal at right tackle may suggest he was the top lineman on the Giants’ draft board. The other two tackles in consideration in the top ten were Ikem Ekwonu and Charles Cross, both of whom had not started a collegiate season on the right-hand side of the line.
The Giants’ offensive line has been extremely poor the past few seasons, featuring in the bottom three units each of the last two seasons according to PFF. With Andrew Thomas playing well at left tackle in 2021, the Giants had four positions on the unit they needed to upgrade. Schoen somewhat addressed the interior with free-agent acquisitions Jon Feliciano and Mark Glowinski, leaving right tackle as the biggest need on the entire roster – an issue they no longer have.
In terms of where he fits on this Giants roster, he will be the starting right tackle from the very first practice rep of the season. Assuming no injuries he will stay there all year and will easily be the best option the Giants have. Should Thomas miss games due to injury like he did in 2021, Neal can step in at left tackle and protect Jones’ blindside where required.
The impact Neal has on this roster immediately is not only limited to his ability to protect his quarterback on game day. In practice, the pairing of Neal and Thomas going up against talented young pass rushers in Azeez Ojulari and Kayvon Thibodeaux will allow all four Giants to improve their game against top talent. Neal will also help with two very important player evaluations the new Giants front office will need to make this season – Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley.
It has been a particularly difficult evaluation to make over the past few seasons, with the incompetent offensive line impacting the ability of both Jones and Barkley to succeed at their positions. With Neal representing the most talented right tackle the pair have played behind since coming to East Rutherford, 2022 should be a year in which their futures as New York Giants are decided – a very important aspect of Schoen’s rebuild of the franchise.
Evan Neal Conclusion
In summary, the selection means the Giants now have what could be the most promising, young tackle pairing in the whole of the NFL. With both Neal and Thomas being first-round picks, the Giants should feature the pair for a long time to come.
The indirect impact Neal has on this roster can also not be overlooked, with his influence on the progression of key defenders, as well as the evaluation of key offensive pieces providing an important tool in the rebuild of the franchise. Overall this is a “home-run” selection for the Giants and at pick 7 overall, it’s hard not to be excited about the future of New York Giants football.