Imagine New England Patriots hulking offensive lineman Trent Brown as an ice skater. That’s what Bleacher Report’s Ian Wharton urges us to do as he attempts to sum up top offensive lineman prospect Evan Neal.
The Alabama stallion Crimson Tide is sure to be the first offensive lineman selected in the 2022 NFL Draft, and his special combination of size and grace is what makes Wharton present such a colorful comparison.
Trent Brown as an “ice skater”?
“There are so many giant offensive tackles in the NFL,” Wharton wrote. “It’s hard enough to find quality blockers, but linemen over 6’6″ and 330 pounds are as rare as they come. That’s why NFL evaluators love the idea of adding Alabama tackle Evan Neal to their roster.”
Charles Davis of NFL.com projects that Neal will be selected with the third overall pick in the draft by the Houston Texans. Second-year pro Davis Mills should have a solid tackle to protect him as long as he’s the Texans’ QB1. One of the things that also stands out about Neal as a prospect is his versatility.
“Neal has experience at shooting guard and at both tackle positions and, unlike Orlando Brown Jr., he moves quite well for such density,” Wharton wrote. “He’s much more similar athletically to former 49er and current Patriots right tackle Trent Brown, except he moves diagonally and horizontally like he’s a graceful ice skater.”
That’s quite a comparison when you consider that Brown is one of the true giants in the NFL. According to Wharton and many others, Neal’s upside outweighs Brown’s, suggesting he could be a perennial All-Pro or more in the NFL. If the Texans end Neal, they’ll be doing for Mills what they didn’t do for David Carr more than a decade ago, and that’s for sure he’d be protected by investing in a top-tier offensive tackle.
The Jacksonville Jaguars and Detroit Lions are projected to be ahead of the Texans on the clock, barring a trade of picks. It wouldn’t be crazy to imagine the Jags or Lions turning to Neal if they see him as a must-see offensive lineman prospect.
The Jaguars already have their young franchise quarterback in Trevor Lawrence. In addition to finding him some serious weapons in the passing game, Jacksonville could also look to find the strongest offensive line to protect his future.
What direction will the Patriots take in the 2022 NFL Draft?
The Patriots aren’t in the business of chasing starting quarterbacks this year, or for the foreseeable future. The team seems pleased with Mac Jones as its starter after he put up a strong rookie season in 2021. Instead, the Patriots are more likely to focus their attention during the draft on a starting cornerback and/or wide receiver.
While New England signed Malcolm Butler and traded for DeVante Parker, more talent and depth are still needed at both positions; perhaps more urgently in the corner. With JC Jackson gone, the Patriots might be forced to turn to Butler as their No. 1 choice at elite wide receivers.
Butler missed the entire 2021 season, briefly retiring before rejoining the team he helped win a Super Bowl. If the Patriots don’t find a way to secure something for Butler, Jalen Mills and Johnathon Jones, it could be a long season.
The Patriots currently have the 21st pick in the draft. Time will tell if Bill Belichick decides to keep the pick or go back to add more picks. In any case, we’re closing in on the crown jewel of the NFL offseason, and we’ll soon find out where Neal will land and who the Patriots have brought in to help the 2022 roster.
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