ESPN published its latest 2022 NFL mock draft this week and, of course, there were some surprises. It’s an expected occurrence this time of year when the NFL draft narrative is still taking shape. The presumptive first-overall pick in August is no longer that guy now, and in a 2022 NFL Draft class that doesn’t have a can’t-miss prospect at the top of its ranks, the first pick is subject to change several times between now and April.
In ESPN’s mock draft, that player is Alabama offensive tackle Evan Neal, despite several months of Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux and Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson jockeying for the right to be the first pick. Neal makes sense for the Jacksonville Jaguars because of the importance surrounding last year’s first-overall pick, quarterback Trevor Lawrence. But is Neal really the kind of player who’s worthy of that top selection? According to ESPN’s Jordan Reid, the answer is yes.
“It has long been believed that the leaders in the clubhouse for the top pick were edge rushers Kayvon Thibodeaux and Aidan Hutchinson, but Neal is worthy, too,” Reid wrote. “With Cam Robinson likely headed elsewhere in free agency and 2019 second-rounder Jawaan Taylor still showing inconsistency, pairing Neal with promising tackle Walker Little gives the team two bookends to protect Lawrence.”
Neal is building momentum to be the first pick and at this point, if it isn’t one of the top two pass-rushers, it’ll be the massive left tackle. At 6’7 and 360 pounds, Neal will put on a show at the 2022 NFL Combine. And when he does, that first-overall chatter will only grow.