Alim McNeill - IDL, NC State
By the numbers:
6'2", 320 pounds.
2020: 25 tackles (4.5 for loss), one sack and one interception in 11 games played.
Alim McNeill moves very well for a player of his size. He played well over his listed 320-pound mark in 2020 and did so with grace. He possesses a terrific first step and plus lateral agility that combines with good functional strength. McNeill is a difficult man to move — even in double-team situations — and works quickly against the run. He was one of the best run-stuffing nose tackles in all of college football last season.
While McNeill is still learning how to finish his pass-rushing reps, the tools are there for him to become a quality performer there. He has moves like an inside swim and even a spin that he displays on occasion. With how nimble he is on his feet and how much leverage he gets from a low pad level, it's easy to dream about his potential. McNeill is oozing with it, and that's a major positive in regards to his draft stock. Interior defensive linemen with good size, speed and strength don't grow on trees.
McNeill is still relatively new to his position, so he'll need some time before potentially reaching his ceiling. This rawness shows up primarily against the pass, as he sometimes looks overwhelmed. It isn't like he doesn't have the physical gifts, but he doesn't always know how to use them in succession. This should improve with time and experience.
As a shorter player, McNeill is prone to letting offensive linemen latch onto him inside. He can usually combat this with a consistent pad level but when he straightens out, he's effectively removed from the play. This, much like his overall development in pass-rushing, is a coachable fix.
How McNeill fits with the Chiefs:
The Chiefs' interior defensive line picture is set, at least for 2021. Chris Jones and Derrick Nnadi will remain the starters, with players like Tershawn Wharton and Khalen Saunders competing for reserve reps. However, should Nnadi depart via free agency a year from now, McNeill would be a perfect replacement. He's a proven run stopper with the potential to be a pocket-collapsing menace against the pass. Selecting McNeill would be a forward-thinking move by the Chiefs.
At the very least, NFL teams are getting a future two-down starter in McNeill. His proficiency in run defense should translate well to the next level. With that said, he has the ability to be even more. The groundwork has been laid for him to become a unicorn of sorts at the nose/defensive tackle position. A year to refine his game without a ton of pressure placed on him may do him some good, and the Chiefs would be a great spot for that. McNeill grades out as an early third-round pick.