Can LSU's Lewis Neal fill hole on Cowboys defensive line?
After that, scouts will have to look hard to find flaws with the 6-foot-2 Neal.
Neal didn’t get an invite to the NFL combine, but said he has the tools and football IQ to play at the next level.
“I feel like I’m one of the guys in the draft that can step in and play right away,” Neal said. “I’ve worked with my defensive line coach Pete Jenkins and we train on the way that NFL linemen play.”
LSU’s Pro Day is Wednesday. The NFL draft is April 27-29 in Philadelphia.
Neal, a two-year starter, plans to win over any doubters. He has spent time training at APEC in west Fort Worth, focusing on improving his athleticism and flexibility.
But Neal is more than a football player.
The North Carolina native is part-owner of a hair salon in the Baton Rouge area, something last summer he told The Advocate’s Ross Dellinger and The Washington Post’s Matt Bonesteel that he purchased after making money through trading currencies on the foreign exchange market.
That’s not your typical pastime for a college student.
But that’s the type of résumé that can separate him from other prospects and could catch the eye of a cerebral coach such as the Dallas Cowboys’ Jason Garrett.
Still, Neal also has the on-field credentials to get more than a shot at the next level at a position that the NFL covets.
Neal started all 12 games last season and had a career-high 11 tackles in a loss to Alabama. He was named SEC defensive lineman of the week with that performance.
“I’ve got the film to back up my play,” said Neal, who graduated in December. “I also played inside this season when I’m an edge rusher by nature.
“I don’t know many guys in this draft that can slide to the 2 gap and roll and play all year long. But I think that shows versatility and I can’t wait to show what I can do at the next level.”
Neal had 60 tackles as a senior, with 5.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. He had eight sacks as a junior.
As for the three defensive coordinators he played under, Neal is quick to point that out as a positive.
“We also had three different line coaches so I’m used to change and adapting and doing it fast,” he said. “I’ve talked to several scouts and they love my motor and long arms, and really that makes up for any issue with height.
“I’m an explosive player, I broke the power-clean record at LSU and I’m blessed with heart. For me, I will use what I got and go get it.”
2017 NFL draft
Here’s a look at the NFL draft first-round order. The draft is April 27-29 in Philadelphia.
2. San Francisco
5. Tennessee (from Los Angeles Rams)
6. New York Jets
7. Los Angeles Chargers
11. New Orleans
12. Cleveland (from Philadelphia)
14. Philadelphia (from Minnesota)
19. Tampa Bay
23. New York Giants
27. Kansas City
29. Green Bay
32. New Orleans (from New England)