2022 NFL Draft Rumors: Evan Neal a 'Medical Risk' to Some Teams Due to Injuries

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IIApril 26, 2022

Alabama offensive lineman Evan Neal (73) sets up for a play during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Florida, Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021, in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack

A few teams reportedly have concerns about Alabama offensive tackle Evan Neal's knee and hip issues, per Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated, to the point where a "good number of clubs" believe he is "a notable medical risk."

Breer provided more context and information behind the comments.

"That doesn’t mean Neal won’t have a good, long career. But I could absolutely see where Jacksonville or Houston, or another team, may look at Neal versus NC State OT Ickey Ekwonu, who has a very clean medical, and take the guy who’s a better bet to last.
"I believe Neal and Ekwonu and Mississippi State’s Charles Cross will, for what it’s worth, all wind up going inside the top six picks, so it’s not like I believe that Neal is going to fall too far because of how his medicals came back. That said, I do think his medicals could wind up pushing him down a couple of picks from where he would have gone otherwise. Which, at the level of the draft, can wind up costing a player a few million bucks."

The B/R NFL Scouting Department ranks Neal second overall among all 2022 NFL draft prospects and first on the offensive tackle list.

"Neal's blend of physical traits, polish despite limited time at one position and youth make him an immediate-impact starter at either left or right tackle with Pro Bowl potential if he can play with better overall posture and hand placement in the run game," B/R's Brandon Thorn wrote.

Neal started 41 games at three different positions during his three-year tenure at Alabama. He only missed one game, and that was against Arkansas on Dec. 12, 2020 after testing positive for COVID-19. Neal was back the next week for Alabama's SEC Championship Game win over Florida.

It's not uncommon to see negative draft smoke follow players in the days leading up to the draft, which starts Thursday at 8 p.m. ET from Las Vegas. However, Neal appears to be the type of player who can emerge from it and still get drafted early.

He proved himself to be a durable, reliable and tough player during his collegiate career, and all signs point to him translating that over to the next level. At the very least, numerous tackle-needy teams in the top 10 would presumably love to have him (e.g., the New York Giants at Nos. 5 and 7 and the Carolina Panthers at No. 6).

Anything can happen on draft day, and blue-chip prospects frequently fall for reasons the public can't see. Ultimately, it would be a shock to see Neal wait long Thursday.