Will Keanu Neal be a first-round pick?
We’re going to find out in a week when the 2016 NFL Draft begins with Round 1 this upcoming Thursday. But we do know one thing, Neal has a better chance of being drafted on the first day than you might have thought a few months ago.
At 6-feet, 211 pounds, the former Gators safety has helped himself by putting his freakish measurables and athletic ability on display during the draft process.
Neal is on NFL.com’s list of the ten most underrated defensive draft prospects, which brings up the possibility of him going at the bottom of the first round. CBS Sports projects Neal as a first to second-round pick and as the top strong safety in this year’s draft.
“He’ll hit you, as you guys watched and were able to see,” Gators coach Jim McElwain said of Neal. “He’s a guy that’s obviously going to be able to not only cover but going to also come down and play in the box when he’s needed to. He put that on film. Obviously his workouts have been really good as well.”
At Florida’s pro day in March, Neal told reporters that he’s hearing he will be a late first or early second-round pick. Aside from the money and prestige that comes along with being a first-round selection, Neal hopes it’s what comes after the draft that defines him.
“It’s a starting point,” Neal said. “That’s how I look at it. You know, go first, second, third, undrafted. It’s a starting point. There are a lot of free agents that go 10 years in the league because they use it as a chip on their shoulder and they keep working. All it is is a starting point in my opinion.”
Neal was third on the team with 96 tackles and also picked off a pass last season before deciding to forgo his senior season to enter the 2016 NFL Draft. At the time, Neal called it the “hardest decision I’ve ever made.”
But it’s worked out for Neal, as NFL.com writes that his “size, athleticism and hitting are the best in this draft.”
“Size, speed, everything that there is,” McElwain said of Neal. “And his explosive nature and the way he plays the game. We always talk to our guys about being proud of what you put on film. Keanu is obviously one who should be proud of what he puts on film.”