Falling Tide Beast Neal a Value Pick at 4.5 for NFL Draft

BetMGM released its latest NFL Draft probabilities Thursday morning and the most eye-popping change was the fall of Alabama offensive tackle Evan Neal, who opened at 1.5 (pick order) and has since fallen to 4.5.

According to BetMGM Data Analyst John Ewing, Neal’s slippage was due to the top three teams signing offensive linemen since the opening line came out. The Jacksonville Jaguars, drafting at No. 1 signed Brandon Scherff — a No. 5 pick in the 2015 Draft — away from the Washington Commanders; the Detroit Lions at No. 2 re-signed backup center Evan Brown, and at No. 3 the Houston Texans signed tackle Cedric Ogbuehi, the Bengals’ 2015 first round pick, leaving Neal to potentially make or break the 4.5 over/under line at No. 4 with the New York Jets.

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Sporstbooks have Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson as the favorite to hoist the Jags’ No. 1 jersey beside Commissioner Goodell, but don’t go to sleep on Neal just yet.

The 6-foot-7, 337-pound tackle is virtually a can’t-miss prospect at an always needed position with little history of injuries. Meanwhile, pass rushers like Hutchinson and Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux — admittedly sexier sells to fan bases of losing teams — are prospects a dumpster fire of an organization might want to resist.

Thibodeaux battled injuries for most of his junior year at Oregon, and Hutchinson missed most of the 2020 season with a broken leg. Pass rushers are notoriously busts at the top of the Draft, and either of this year’s sackmasters has the potential to join the club inhabited by the likes of Aundray Bruce, Steve Emtman and Andre Wadsworth.

Even non-busts at this position — like J.J. Watt and Nick Bosa — are preternaturally susceptible to injury.

While the oddsmakers at BetMGM might be reacting to practical trends, the psychology of the war room in Jacksonville also needs to be taken into account.

MORE: Picks for every major sports league

As the NFL’s quasi SEC team of the Deep South, Jacksonville is blessed with a remarkably on-brand young quarterback in Trevor Lawrence, who needs to be protected at all costs, both for the sake of the team’s win potential, and in defense of the team’s brand.

Neal is a can’t-miss prospect from the best pro-producing program in college football; he’s from tiny, backwoods Okechobee, Florida — something that matters to the Jacksonville fan base — and while drafting an offensive lineman wouldn’t go so well in Detroit or Houston, using a No. 1 overall pick to show dedication to protecting Trevor Lawrence would show a commitment Jaguars fans are craving.

DraftKings Sportsbook has Neal at +1400 to be picked first overall, a value pick that could pay off should the Jaguars come to their damn senses on Draft Day.

 
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