Lorenzo Neal, Jr. NFL Draft Overview
Position: Interior Defensive Line
Weight: 318 lbs.
School: Purdue University
2021 NFL Draft: Lorenzo Neal, Jr. Player Profile
Lorenzo Neal, Jr. is a second-generation player whose father played for seven teams over 16 seasons in the NFL. The young defender played for the Purdue Boilermakers for a total of four seasons between 2016 and 2020, having missed 2019 due to injury. In 30 games over four years at Purdue, he accrued 72 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, four sacks, five deflections, four forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery. His forced fumble numbers in 2017 and 2018 were top ten in the Big Ten conference.
In 2018, Neal was projected to enter the NFL Draft as a top defensive tackle after the season. He unfortunately tore his ACL in the 2018 Bucket Game and missed the remainder of his sophomore campaign. But because his injury influenced his draft stock, Neal opted to return to Purdue for the 2019 season. Sadly, he suffered several setbacks and complications with his recovery from the torn ACL and missed the entirety of his third season. This seriously dented his draft stock.
When he returned to Purdue in 2020, he moved to a true nose tackle role in a 3-4 scheme. He began the 2020 season on the Preseason Watch List for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, but finished without having followed through on this recognition. Playing quite a bit of 0-tech and 1-tech throughout his five games last year, Neal put together his worst collegiate season in terms of production. Despite proving far less effective as a nose tackle than a defensive tackle, conference media gave Neal an All-Big Ten Football Honor Mention last year. He received the same honor two years prior as well.
- Powerful defender with impressive club and swim moves;
- Surprising motor and mobility for a man of his size;
- Has a knack for creating takeaways and punching the ball out;
- Decent lateral quickness, can play gaps well as a result;
- Has spent entire life around football as a second-generation athlete.
- Can play top-heavy and struggle with leverage;
- Ineffectiveness after returning from ACL injury is cause for concern;
- Needs to improve command of pad level;
- Does not play like a true nose tackle despite his nose tackle frame;
- Mediocre footwork.
NFL Comparison: Domata Peko
Projection: Late Third-to-Fifth Round
Bottom Line on Lorenzo Neal, Jr.
After his final season at Purdue, Neal scored decently in some tests at his pro day while scoring inadequately in others. His 40-yard dash time of 5.59 seconds was slower than any 40 at the 2020 NFL Combine and is actually one of the slowest 40-yard dashes in history. He will need to drastically improve his speed and initial burst to succeed at the professional level.
His elephantine frame renders his 25.5-inch vertical and eight-and-a-half foot broad jump unsurprising, however. On the positive side of his pro day scores, Neal posted 27 reps at 225 pounds on the bench press and his wingspan measured 78.25 inches. Because his draft stock has improved steadily since January, it is possible his underwhelming performance at his pro day is not significant enough to prevent a front office from taking a chance on him.
Neal projects in the NFL as a defensive end in a 3-4 scheme, predominantly playing 3- or 4i-tech. He possesses the prototypical size and power to play nose tackle, but his efforts at the position in 2020 were ineffectual. Because of his lack of top-end speed and initial burst, he also can project as a defensive tackle in a 4-3, where he would mostly line up as a 2- or 3-tech.
It would not prove surprising to see a team take a flyer on Lorenzo Neal, Jr. in the 2021 NFL Draft, especially considering his bloodline. If he lands in the right spot with the right scheme and defensive line coaching in place, he could not only return to form but surpass it.
Main Photo: Embed from Getty Images