2016 NFL Draft Player Profiles: Florida S Keanu Neal

As you should know by now, our attention has now shifted to the 2016 NFL Draft as it relates to the prospects. From now until the draft takes place, we hope to profile as many draft prospects as we possibly can for you. Most of these player profiles will be centered around prospects the Pittsburgh Steelers are likely to have interest in.

A look at another safety in Florida’s Keanu Neal.

#42 – Keanu Neal/S Florida: 6-1, 216

The Good

– Plays with vision on the ball carrier
– Very physical
– Form tackler
– Experience in Cover 2, robber, Cover 1, SS
– Quietly athletic
– Plays aggressively, on edge at times
– Understands assignment – outside shoulder when playing contain, etc.
– Works through traffic in the box to the ball

The Bad

– Fails to blow up lead blockers, plays too complacently in space against FBs
– Too slow coming up from single-high against the run
– Consistently has trouble reading gaps inside against the run, jumps inside
– Seems range-limited in MOF
– Mentally slow to process the game?
– So inconsistent to hit piles

Bio

– Accepted Florida over offers from Central Florida, South Florida, Duke, Georgia Tech, Kentucky and South Carolina
– Experience on special teams
– Declared as junior
– 2015 stats: 84 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 2.0 sacks, 1 INT, 1 PD, 1 FF
– Made 2014 SEC Academic Honor Roll
– Missed two games in 2015 with hamstring injury

Tape Breakdown

Although Neal stumbles and loses his balance here in coverage, he recovers in time to see Jake Butt bearing down on him. For those not familiar, Butt is a 6-6, 248 tight end who’s a college wrecker and likely high selection next season. However, Neal’s tackle is absolutely picture perfect. Plant feet, helmet outside body, explode up through ball carrier. He stops Butt cold in his tracks for the stop. This is what you want to see when tackling a runaway train in space.

Here, Neal is playing SS in the box. On a toss outside, he commits inside far too hard off the bat. Why? Too slow of a read step and then too aggressive of a second step to compensate. Instead, he’s caught up chasing the ball carrier at the line of scrimmage instead of keeping his shoulders parallel to the line and shuffling to the sideline. As such, he presents his shoulder to Joe Kerridge, the lead blocker, which is a recipe to get blocked through the end zone.

I have no idea what the playside corner is doing here, because this is man-free, meaning he has responsibility in trail for WR Amara Darboh down the sideline. Instead, he lets his man slip free and open. Michigan QB Jake Rudock underthrows the ball behind the WR, turning him to avoid most of the collision (or it was just a bad throw). Neal comes in like a heat-seeking missile, delivering a shoulder-first hit that rocks the receiver. This is aggressive play, but not illegal.

What’s most noteworthy about Neal is how inconsistent his motor runs. At times, he shies away from getting involved in piles. At others, he does this. I get that Derrick Henry is hard to bring down – he didn’t win the Heisman for nothing. But this is aggressive abandon right here. Neal flies around at times, but at others jogs to the ball. An NFL coach will need to get in his face a couple of times about this.

One more to illustrate how “on” Neal is when playing downhill. He makes contact with the receiver and absolutely bodyslams him. This is enough to give any receiver alligator arms when coming across the middle next time.

Summary:

If you were an NFL general manager drafting based on flashes of talent, Neal is an early Round 3 project. If you were working from his floor up, he looks like a 4-5th guy. When he’s playing as physical as some of those gifs, he looks like a Day 2 guy. When he is skulking around piles and wanting no part of gang tackles, he looks like a Day 3 selection. It’s as simple as that.

Neal’s flashes are great. He looks like a switch safety, easily capable of playing underneath as a robber/SS or deep at the free safety position. Although he lacks a little ranginess, he has the closing burst and aggression to make a living in the back half of a secondary. His angles in the box can be questionable, but his tackling ability is excellent.

The Florida secondary this past year was stacked, with draftable prospects in Vernon Hargreaves III and Brian Poole as well as underclassmen you’ll get to know next season. For that reason, I was very careful in my evaluation of Neal with the NFL-caliber talent around him. However, his defects are ones easily corrected by NFL coaching. For that reason, I’m inclined to draft him closer to his ceiling. If you liked Vonn Bell, you’ll like Neal – they’re similar-type players. Their versatility will help both play in the NFL, but Neal’s physicality is far more than that of Bell.

Projection: Fourth Round

Games Watched: Ole Miss, at Alabama, Michigan (Citrus Bowl)

Previous Player Profiles
Hunter HenryEli AppleLaquon TreadwellDadi NicolasKendall Fuller
Deion JonesJihad WardKevin PetersonVonn BellMichael Caputo
Andrew BillingsMackensie AlexanderTyler ErvinAustin BlytheChris Jones
Sheldon RankinsNoah SpenceJordan JenkinsYannick NgakoueDarian Thompson
Bryce WilliamsCre’von LeblancHenry Krieger-CobleLeonard FloydJosh Garnett
Kevin HoganCorey ColemanShaq LawsonAustin JohnsonDeAndre Houston-Carson
William Jackson IIIVernon ButlerSean DavisTyler BoydJalen Ramsey
Taveze CalhounGermain IfediNick VannettJack AllenAlonzo Russell
Leonte Carroo

About the Author

Luc Polglaze

If it’s not about football, it’s about music. Colorado born and raised, living in DC now.

  • CP72

    Thanks Luc. Been waiting on this one. His rating has been all over the place. I love his size and physical nature. Think he fits AFC North style of play.

  • Jonathan Ferullo

    I find it interesting that in another thread the safety discussion turns to Neal, and then I find this evaluation a few min later. This site is simply amazing.

  • dkoy85

    Looks like a good project- If he has the mental aptitude for the job.

  • Bill Sechrengost

    Thanks Luc. I wish the Steelers had a few more draft picks than they do. It will be hard to fill all of their needs with just the few they have, especially higher rounds. I like this kid and his physical style of play.

  • Frank Cordaro

    Im a Gators in college so Ive watched him for years, I like him and he’s a good prospect and he will smash people.

  • PapaJuju

    No team can fill all of their needs in the off-season. You have to hope that some players develop that you don’t think can necessarily fill those shoes.

    Just impossible in the era of free agency and cap restraints.

    The best you can do is make one area of your team superior in some special way. They’ve done that on offense.

    They just need the defense to improve against the pass to a marginal degree and they will be tough to beat.

  • PittsburghSports

    I like Neal more than Von Bell, just because I can’t see Bell playing a SS role with us. I’d consider him in rd 3, but much rather have Karl Joseph. Hard to tell though cause half the time on these videos you can’t even see the Safety.

  • steelmann58

    DONT;T NEED A s WHO SHYS AWAY FROM CONTACT OR NOT HAVING A NON STOP MOTOR

  • Michael James

    I really like this summary Luc, because I’ve done my report on him today and wrote the exact same things. However, I have him as a mid-to-late second rounder. Why? I just think his style of play really fits the NFL and his flaws are easily coachable. His upside is just immense.

  • Karl Joseph! I’ve got my fingers crossed that he’ll be there in the 2nd and they snag him!

  • PaeperCup

    Like his controller is stuck in the hit stick position. I’m surprised he’s unable to show that explosiveness against lead blockers. Overall I like Neal, but hope he can roudn out his game more. The unable to disect plays quickly or process the game is worrisome. It almost reminds me of Shmarko who was a big hitter too…but Neal does have 4 inches on Thomas. In a safety I’m hoping we can get someone ready to play day 1…or 2, but can’t have another 3 year project like Shmarko

  • Big Joe

    He’s being assessed anywhere from the 2nd to the late 4th. Kind of hard to get a grip on this one

  • Vinhuddle

    Agree completely with you after reading the “Bad” section. I was expecting to see 6th- UDFA predictions, not a 4th.

  • Big Joe

    Think he’ll go 4th or 5th as evals really dig in

  • Ike Evans

    Hes going second round….id put money on it

  • Steve

    If we had a good Secondary coach this could work, but we don’t, and it would be another wasted pick. Neal can hit, but take bad angles and has problems getting off blocks.

  • Lambert58

    Correctable flaws. He’s got things you can’t teach.

  • Steve

    You can take a Big guy off the window at McDonalds and put him on the Steelers line and Coach Munchick will have a decient OL in a few games. But give Lake 3 draftees and none will make it out of camp.