The New York Giants are in the market for a new right tackle entering the 2022 NFL Draft. The Giants have expressed significant interest in each of the top two tackles in this year’s draft class, Evan Neal and Ikem Ekwonu. If both prospects are on the board for the Giants at five overall, which one should Big Blue select?
Who is the better fit for the Giants? | Evan Neal vs Ikem Ekwonu
There is a realistic chance that the Giants will have the opportunity to choose between the draft’s top two offensive tackles with the fifth overall pick in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft. Alabama’s Evan Neal and North Carolina’s Ikem Ekwonu are the consensus top-two tackle prospects. Granted, there is a chance that one of these tackles is selected inside the top-four picks. But regardless, the Giants need to decide which tackle target is a better fit for their offense.
Evan Neal and Ikem Ekwonu are both top-tier offensive tackle prospects. Many consider the two equal in terms of talent/skill level. However, Neal and Ekwonu play the game of football with different strengths and scheme fits. Both Neal and Ekwonu are talented enough to be day-one starters in the NFL. But which player will fit better into Giants head coach Brian Daboll’s pass-centric offensive attack?
Left versus right tackle
Whichever tackle the Giants select will need to transition across the line. Both Neal and Ekwonu started at left tackle in 2021, but the Giants have that position solidified by Andrew Thomas. This could give Evan Neal an edge since he actually has experience playing right tackle. Ikem Ekwonu exclusively played left tackle in college, but Evan Neal started at right tackle in 2020 before switching to left tackle in his final season.
Ideal role and scheme fit
Evan Neal is a 6-foot-8, 337-pounder whose “ideal role” according to The Draft Network is as “a dominant run blocking RT.” TDN says that Neal’s best scheme fit is “a downhill power scheme that allows him to use his rare combination of size and power to punish defensive lineman.” This scheme does not match up well with that of the Giants’ new offense, however, that is not to say that Neal could not find success with Big Blue.
Inversely, the 6-foot-4, 310-pounder Ikem Ekwonu’s ideal role is a “starting left tackle,” according to TDN. His scheme fit is in a “wide zone rushing attack but he’s a universal scheme fit.” Ekwonu has more versatility to his game, but his lack of size and power might make him exclusively successful as a left tackle compared to a strong-side right tackle.
Run-blocking versus pass-protection
Both Evan Neal and Ikem Ekwonu are physical, violent run-blockers. PFF describes Ekwonu as “the single most dominant run-blocking tackle in the country.” His strengths are definitely rooted in the running game. According to PFF, Ekwonu’s 18 big-time blocks in the run game this season are seven more than the next-closest Power-5 offensive lineman. But Ickey was no slouch as a poss-protector either. He only allowed 3 sacks across 500 pass-blocking snaps in 2021. Additionally, Ekwonu has the lowest pressure % allowed with RPOs, screens, and play-action removed in this year’s class (PFF).
Evan Neal is also described as a dominant run-blocker, but he seems to get a bit more credit for his pass protection. PFF notes that Neal “only allowed 24 pressures over the past two years between left and right tackle.” Neal is a better run-blocker than pass-blocker, but Lance Zierlein of NFL.com describes his weaknesses as “correctable areas of improvement in pass protection.”
Who should the Giants draft?
Realistically, the New York Giants cannot go wrong with either one of these options. Evan Neal and Ikem Ekwonu are both excellent offensive tackle prospects that will turn into quality starters in the NFL.
If the Giants want a prospect with more refinement and experience against top-tier competition, they should target Alabama’s, Evan Neal. Neal also has a more moldable frame with power and explosion in the running game that cannot be taught. Evan Neal’s experience playing both left and right tackle and a high pass-blocking level might make him a perfect fit for the New York Giants.
However, Ikem Ekwonu is the guy the Giants would draft to re-establish their running game. Statistically, there is no better run-blocker in this year’s draft class than Ekwonu. He might not have the biggest frame, but Ekwonu has the skill to succeed as a tackle in the NFL. He is powerful and coachable. The New York Giants could make Ikem Ekwonu a stud right tackle in their new offense.