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2022 NFL Draft: Why a bet on Alabama OT Evan Neal as the No. 1 overall pick is worth considering

Gainesville, Florida, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide offensive lineman Evan Neal (73) against the Florida Gators at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The wild-card round of the NFL playoffs is over. The four-game divisional-round slate is set. Eight teams remain in the hunt for the Lombardi Trophy, while the 2022 NFL Draft and free agency are now the next big landmarks for the 24 remaining NFL teams and their fans.

Free agency — and the way we cover it at — is top-notch fun, and you can find our analyses here. However, the NFL draft presents an exclusive opportunity for NFL bettors to get skin in the game this offseason. 

After recently writing about Aidan Hutchinson’s odds of going first overall, I want to talk about Evan Neal’s chances of being drafted No. 1 overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars

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The Alabama offensive tackle is currently the fifth player on our big board, and he is currently lined at +275 to be the top pick, per Draftkings Sportsbook. He is the third favorite to be taken, after Hutchinson (+105) and Oregon edge defender Kayvon Thibodeaux (+105), after seeing his draft stock soar in this market in recent weeks.

Neal was as high as +900 to be taken first overall around Christmas Day. And given that the outcome only has to occur 26.7% of the time for this bet to break even, I think this is still a decent play for several reasons.

Neal is considered the best offensive lineman in this class

Not only is Neal fifth on our draft board, but he’s also the top offensive lineman on our board, narrowly above Charles Cross of Mississippi State. Tyler Linderbaum, the center from Iowa, is ninth on our big board.

One of our comps for Neal — using our college-to-pro projection system — is Tampa Bay Buccaneers left tackle Donovan Smith, who has had a decent career after a slow start.

Neal was good in 2021, if not necessarily the most dominant tackle in the game, allowing pressure on just 1.4% of his pass-blocking reps while also generating an 80.4 run-blocking grade despite a poor supporting cast along what is usually a stout Alabama offensive line. The 6-foot-7, 350-pound tackle never allowed more than three pressures in a game and had six perfect games in pass protection even though quarterback Bryce Young had an above-average 2.79-second time to throw in the pocket in 2021.

The scouts at Bleacher Report and other outlets are mostly aligned on this assessment, which is a good sign even if it isn't necessarily a lock to mean he’ll be the first lineman chosen.

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