Alabama football OT Evan Neal declares for NFL Draft
Alabama football offensive tackle Evan Neal has declared for the NFL Draft, Neal announced on Twitter on Thursday.
Neal just wrapped up his junior season and is forgoing his senior season to head to the NFL where he has a strong chance to be a top five pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, scheduled for April 28.
Neal is the first non-senior on Alabama's 2021 roster to declare for the draft. Fellow junior Jameson Williams, a receiver who transferred from Ohio State ahead of the 2021 season, also announced on Thursday he will be heading to the NFL.
The deadline to declare is Monday.
"It's been a hell of a ride Bama nation! Now it's on to the next chapter," Neal wrote on Twitter. "Roll tide forever!!"
Neal, a 6-7, 350-pound offensive tackle, could go as high as first overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Some mock drafts already have him going to that spot.
Williams also has first round potential, but he suffered a knee injury in the College Football Playoff championship that could affect his draft stock. His ridiculous speed helped him finish the year with 79 receptions for 1,572 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Both Williams and Neal received All-American recognition this season.
In addition to being a consensus first-team All-American, Neal became a permanent team captain in 2021. He made 39 starts over three years, seeing time in three different spots. He started out as a left guard in 2019 before moving to right tackle (2020) and left tackle (2021).
He's a former five-star prospect from the 2019 class out of IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. He was the No. 1 offensive tackle and No. 7 overall prospect in his class, according to the 247Sports Composite.
Neal is being considered as a top pick in part because of his unique combination of size, strength and athleticism. Look no further than the box jumps he pulled off before the season.
"He's an absolutely massive physical specimen with unbelievable physical skills," said Scott Pioli, a NFL Network & CBS analyst who was a longtime NFL executive. "You don't usually see a big man who can do the things athletically that he can do. It's not just his athleticism when he has to make moves. It's his reactive athleticism that is really rare for such a big man."
Neal's departure leaves the Crimson Tide needing a new left tackle for 2022.
Amari Knight was listed as his backup on the depth chart during the season. Knight is a former four-star prospect who was also in the 2019 class. He saw 62 snaps during the 2021 season, 36 of which came during the win over New Mexico State.
Alabama could also turn to a younger prospect, but development in the offseason will be key. The Crimson Tide called on veteran Chris Owens, who's more of an interior offensive lineman, to play right tackle throughout 2021. That signified Alabama's trust in Owens but also that younger players were not quite yet ready to start.
The two young offensive lineman with the most recruiting pedigree from this year's roster are freshmen Tommy Brockermeyer and JC Latham. Each one was a five-star prospect in the 2021 class. The 247Sports composite listed Latham at No. 1 at the position and Brockermeyer No. 2.
Latham saw action in 13 games, earning 104 snaps on the offensive line. He filled in for Emil Ekiyor Jr. at guard when Ekiyor left the Cotton Bowl with an injury. Brockermeyer did not see playing time in 2021.
Contact Alabama reporter Nick Kelly: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @_NickKelly