The Detroit Lions selected massive defensive lineman Alim McNeill, from North Carolina State, in the third round (No. 72 overall) of the 2021 NFL Draft.
And when I say massive, I mean massive. McNeill is big and wide.
He is also perfect for Lions head coach Dan Campbell's newly announced 3-4 defensive scheme -- three down defensive linemen and four linebackers -- because he played both nose tackle and defensive tackle in college.
There are two ways defensive production can be measured in the NFL, either by being statistically productive or by being the type of player who selflessly occupies space and/or blockers so other defenders can make the plays. McNeill is a combination of both.
In three seasons at N.C. State, McNeill stacked up 77 tackles, 17.5 tackles for loss and 10 sacks. His stats were fairly consistent during his three years in college, except for his sack production falling off a cliff last year -- which is why he probably lasted until the third round.
I liked the pick of McNeill much better than the second-round pick of DT Levi Onwuzurike. I think McNeill brings a lot more to the party, from the standpoint of having more pure ability and playing strength. And, I think he gives a more consistent and stronger effort.
If I had to predict, I would say McNeill will prove to have the better career. He looks like a better player on film.
DT/NT Alim McNeill - 6-foot-2, 320 pounds
Grade: B (Good player, but not elite; he's good enough to win with, however)
College film studied (2020): Against Duke, Virginia Tech, North Carolina and Wake Forest
An interior defensive lineman with a big, thick, sturdy and physically strong frame, who is a consistent force and presence in a limited area. Looks alert and ready to go pre-snap. Has long arms and the brute physical strength to lock out at the point of attack and to create separation.
In passing situations, he looks like a big human bowling ball that gets a consistent good push as he gets rolling. He is a real handful who draws a fair share of double teams. Gets a good surge. Good motor. He is a fighter who keeps coming. Showed good technique and knows how to use his hands. Showed an effective spin and swim move that he uses to shoot into a gap. And, if he gets into a gap, look out. Does try to get into gaps. Consistently makes the pocket less comfortable up the middle.
Against the run, he showed that he is a disciplined player who plays his gap assignments. He can hold the point and allow for other defenders to make the tackles. And occasionally, he will be at the right place at the right time, and will make a solid and strong wrapping tackle. McNeill is a good-looking football player, who is in the mold of former NFL defensive lineman Jerry Ball.
Detroit got better on defense when it selected McNeill. Get used to his name, because he is going to be around for a while.
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