The New York Giants drafted right tackle Evan Neal with the seventh overall pick in the draft last offseason. Neal went on to have a tumultuous rookie season, struggling to adjust to the pro game and being hampered by a mid-season MCL injury. Despite his early-career struggles, it is unfair to label Neal a bust after just one season. Yet, some fans and analysts believe that label might be justified.
According to Alex Ballentine of Bleacher Report, Evan Neal is one of the many young players in the NFL that are “dangerously close to bust status” entering the 2023 offseason. Considering he has played in only 13 NFL games, labeling Neal a bust seems premature. Nobody should be labeling Evan Neal a bust following his rookie season after seeing the way Andrew Thomas turned his career around after his early-career struggles.
Nobody should be labeling New York Giants RT Evan Neal a bust
Similar adjectives were used to describe Andrew Thomas following his rookie and sophomore seasons with the Giants. Thomas was dragged through the mud after surrendering 10 sacks and 57 pressures as a rookie in 2021. The Giants’ left tackle failed to live up to his 4th-overall draft stock in his first two seasons, causing many to question whether or not he would find success in the NFL.
Andrew Thomas put all doubters and naysayers to bed in 2022 with a dominant, second-team All-Pro campaign. Thomas established himself as one of the NFL’s elite left tackles, letting up just 4 sacks and 23 pressures this past season.
While it may be unrealistic to expect Evan Neal to turn into the same caliber player as his teammate Thomas, it is also unreasonable to rule out the possibility. Neal was the seventh-overall pick in the NFL Draft for a reason. The 6-foot-7, 360-pound right tackle has unlimited potential. With the proper coaching and time to grow, Neal could still turn into something special despite his lackluster rookie season.
Evan Neal surrendered 8 sacks and 52 pressures as a rookie and was quite often a liability on the Giants’ offensive line. But it’s worth keeping in mind that Neal was on a stretch where he let up only five pressures and one sack before suffering a partial-MCL tear against the Jaguars in Week 7. The injury somewhat derailed Neal’s development as he struggled even worse upon his return.
Indeed, his rookie season was one to forget. However, so was Andrew Thomas’s, and so was Lane Johnson’s. It is entirely possible that Evan Neal will turn things around in year two. The talent and physical tools are present, they just need to be sharpened. It is far too soon to label Evan Neal a bust.