Safety, Florida 6ft – 211lbs
|40yd dash: 4.62s||Bench Press: 17 reps|
|Vertical Jump: 38in||3 Cone Drill: 7.09s|
|Broad Jump: 11ft||20yd Shuttle: 4.38s|
Florida is one of many schools that claim to be ‘DB U’, and I must say, they have a pretty convincing argument this year alone. Vernon Hargreaves is the best pure cornerback in this draft and then there is Keanu Neal. Neal surprised a few when he declared for the draft as he was just another guy in a very, very good Gators defense. However, through the draft process he has emerged as a real talent, enough to be invited to and be attending the draft in Chicago. Who remembers Kenny Vaccaro when he came out of Texas in 2013? Neal is pretty similar. He worked his way from a standout special team’s player as a freshman all the way to being a starter for a great defense. As a freshman he tied the team lead for special teams tackles and he only improved from then. In his following two seasons he played in 22 of 26 games – 4 missed due to injury – yet still amassed 141 tackles, 3.5 for loss, 2 sacks and 4 interceptions. Those types of stats don’t just come about by chance, he has earned them. Along with those stats, he has pretty favourable measurable – as you can see above. He does need to work on his awareness in coverage, and he does need to learn that he can’t always try to take the ball carriers head off, but he has very workable and enticing tools. Unfortunately for Neal, there are two or three safeties that are likely ranked ahead of him by most teams, especially as the last big hitting safety out of Florida – Matt Elam – hasn’t really panned out, sparking belief that the Gators scheme may be friendly towards safeties like them. Nevertheless, some teams have shown interest. The 49ers, Falcons, Steelers and Titans have all met with him, with the Titans and Steelers doing so in private. The Falcons went one further and had him in for a workout. As you’d expect, all of these teams seem to be fits, as all four could use a little extra juice in their defensive backfield. For me, the Falcons or Titans make the most sense. The Falcons pass defense needs all the help it can get, and even though Neal does need to improve his pass coverage, he’d be an immediate help. He’d also be a huge asset to the run defense, and that is never a bad thing. The Titans, on the other hand, have Dick LeBeau running the defense, but they are without the hallmark pieces that made his defense so great in Pittsburgh and one of those things is a playmaker in the defensive backfield. Now, I’m not saying Neal can be as good as Polamalu, but I think he can fill a similar role. Neal will be able to act as a 5th roaming linebacker and he’ll also be able to be more of a center-fielder type, and I’m sure LeBeau would like that again.