Grading the Giants' pick of Evan Neal in the 2022 NFL Draft

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Evan Neal treated image, blue top stripe
Evan Neal treated image, blue top stripe

The most obvious and predictable part of this NFL Draft was that the Giants were going to come out of Day 1 with their starting right tackle.

And while they didn’t get one where everyone expected, they ended up with the one they wanted all along.

After nearly taking Alabama tackle Evan Neal at No. 5, the Giants waited and got him at No. 7 instead, adding the massive, 6-7, 337-pound tackle as the final piece of their 2022 offensive line. It was a glaring hole that obviously needed to be filled after they signed stop-gap veterans to play center and both guard positions. And their plan all along was to fill it in Round 1.

The reason they didn’t take him at 5, though, was because the board didn’t play out exactly as they expected. When they were on the clock for the first time on Thursday night, no tackles had been taken, leaving them with a choice of Neal, North Carolina State’s Ikem “Ickey” Ekwonu and Mississippi State tackle Charles Cross.

The Giants would’ve been happy with any of the three, according to a source, but their preference was Neal and they felt confident that the Carolina Panthers were going to take Ekwonu at 6. So the Giants took Oregon edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux at 5. And when the Panthers took Ekwonu, their patience paid off.

And now, after years of failed rebuilding, the Giants would appear to have the bookend tackles that every line needs – with the improving Andrew Thomas on the left side and Neal on the right, at least for now. With the veterans in the interior, they actually could have an NFL-caliber offensive line this season, which is something they really haven’t had for years.

That was a big priority for the new regime of GM Joe Schoen and head coach Brian Daboll. They obviously could see how bad the line was even before they were hired, and they understood that quarterback Daniel Jones didn’t have much of a chance if he was running for his life. They knew they needed to get him some protection in what is a critical year for the young quarterback, especially now that they declined his fifth-year option, meaning his contract expires at the end of the year.

Neal was the missing piece to that. A big athletic tackle who is as good a pass blocker as he is a run blocker. The Giants’ offense could look a lot different with Neal and Thomas protecting the edges.

Grade: A