The Jaguars are 2-6, coming off a shocking upset over the AFC-favorite Buffalo Bills. With two wins in their last three contests, some of you might not want to think about the draft, and if that's the case, bookmark this and come back to it later. For those of you like me, who think about the draft year-round, you're in the right place.
I know the Jaguars are in a much better spot than they were a month ago, but looking ahead for a moment to the 2022 first-round, the Jaguars are still in line to pick fifth overall. Outside of some massive run over the next nine weeks, I expect the Jaguars to pick somewhere in the general vicinity of that spot come next April.
The prospect currently mocked to the Jaguars in most mock drafts that I've read?
Alabama OL Evan Neal.
Neal stands 6'7" and weighs in at a whopping 360-pounds. The true junior is a mountain of a man and has played guard, right tackle, and left tackle for the Crimson Tide.
Strengths: Neal is a roadblock, plain and simple. Due to his incredible size, he's difficult for defenders to get around. But Neal is so much more than his size. He's got heavy hands, tremendous upper and lower body strength to go along with a rock-solid core. He gets into his pass sets quickly and plays assignment sound ball. In the run game, he plays with leverage and strength, driving defenders off the ball. Neal regularly impacts multiple defenders in pass pro and as a run blocker. His length is a problem for almost every defender he faces. Neal's explosiveness is astounding for his size. His positional versatility is also a major plus.
Weaknesses: You see him playing over his toes quite a bit which causes him to play with sub-optimal balance at times, especially working to the second level. Sometimes this causes him to whiff on backers and defensive backs.
Overall: They just don't make them like Evan Neal. He has the size of a guy like Orlando Brown but moves like someone who weighs 40-50 pounds less. His positional versatility will be huge, and if a team lets him play the same spot for more than one season, we could see major growth. This kid is the definition of a freak show and has the work ethic to ensure he'll make it at the next level. He should be an immediate starter and has early Pro Bowl potential. The one thing that might hold him back from becoming an elite tackle is balance. But, I don't see any scheme restrictions.
So, we've established that this kid certainly has the chops to be a top-ten pick. But does he make sense as a potential top ten pick for the Jaguars?
The Jaguars selected Stanford offensive tackle Walker Little in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft. He is seemingly in line to be their left tackle of the future. The current starting left tackle, Cam Robinson (another former Alabama offensive tackle), is playing under the franchise tag and whether or not he returns is up in the air. Walker Little's selection would seem to suggest that Robinson won't be back in 2022, but that remains to be seen.
On the right side, Jawaan Taylor is in the second to last year of his rookie contract. He hasn't performed to the level expected of him.
This is, again, where positional versatility comes into play. Because he can play left tackle, right tackle, or guard, there's no doubt in my mind that Neal could find his way into the starting lineup for the Jaguars in year one and make a positive impact. With Cam Robinson, Andrew Norwell, and AJ Cann all in contract years, there will likely be plenty of turnaround on this offensive line.
The Jaguars could undoubtedly do much worse than Evan Neal. With a host of talented cornerbacks, wide receivers, and defensive ends in this year's class, he might not be my top pick for the Jaguars come April. But if he's one of the five guys protecting Trevor Lawrence and paving the way for James Robinson, Duval should be thrilled.
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