2022 NFL Draft Cheat Sheet: Offensive Tackles

Evan Neal, Alabama

Neal is one of the best overall tackle prospects to come into the NFL Draft cycle in quite a few years. First off, it helps that he’s from the University of Alabama, a school that has had a serious run at pumping out pro-level tackles. Under Nick Saban, Neal was learning from the best on how to protect a quarterback and bulldoze for a running back. It also helps that he’s absolutely massive, measuring in at the combine at 6’7 and a half and 337 pounds. Neal is a hulking mountain of a man, and that 337 is mostly lean muscle from what scouts have seen. With a build like that, combined with his extreme athletic ability, Neal’s ceiling is limitless.

Where I have concerns are not with Neal’s size, but rather the products of that. The average offensive tackle in the NFL is about 6’5 and a half, 310 pounds. Neal shatters both of those marks which could be a good thing! But, he’s not exactly light on his feet like you’d hope for a tackle to be. I worry that speed-based rushers like Myles Garrett might just be able to blow by him despite his size. These concerns are minimal with Neal, but they do still exist, and they’re probably part of why he’s no longer the odds-on favorite to be the top pick in the draft.

Ikem Ekwonu, North Carolina State

North Carolina State’s Ikem Ekwonu has, for at least some people, taken the mantle from Neal as the top offensive tackle in this class. I might not agree, I personally still think Neal is the better prospect, but I absolutely understand where Ekwonu’s camp is coming from. Ekwonu is big enough to be a tackle, but not overwhelmingly (and maybe detrimentally) large like Neal is. All accounts say that Ekwonu is a great locker-room guy who can rally an offense around him. He’s a smart tackle with a wrestling background, and both of these traits show up on his tape.

My biggest concern with Ekwonu is that he can get a little frenetic at some points. I mentioned that I want killers on the field in my wide receivers edition of this column, but I also mentioned that you need to keep that evil streak under control before it costs you, and I’ll reiterate that here. I wouldn’t describe Ekwonu as raw, he has the smarts and awareness down, but he does lack technique in some areas. He’s a smart player, he understands it, but he doesn’t “get it,” at least not yet.

Charles Cross, Mississippi State

I think that out of every tackle here, Charles Cross intrigues me the most. You could say that Evan Neal doesn’t “look like a tackle” looking at a picture of him, but then someone tells you that he’s actually 6’8 337 and you’re like “oh yeah, I totally see it now.” No, Charles Cross literally just does not look like an offensive tackle. Despite being 6’5 and 307 pounds, he’s really thinly built as a tackle. Cross looks like an edge rusher accidentally walked out onto the field on offense and didn’t realize it until the play already started. I mean this as a compliment. The explosiveness and arm length of Cross solidifies this in mind, especially with how he uses it.

One thing I wasn’t expecting to need to critique in Cross’s tape was a lack of athleticism. I think Cross might be a scheme-specific player because his lack of movement in blocking doesn’t exactly lend itself to zone scheme. Cross can dominate you at the point of attack, especially with such a strong anchor, but I’m not sure he can get to his spot to blow open a hole ten yards down the field at the pro level. Also, Charles, I know you’re listening to me. I can tell that you’re reading this. Stop holding. Please.

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