With the 2021 NFL Draft fast approaching, we examine some of the prospects who could be of interest to the New England Patriots.
In this scouting report, we take a closer look at Alim McNeill, a nose tackle from North Carolina State University.
40-Yard Dash: 4.96 seconds
Strength: 8.5/10 - McNeill is strong and powerful at the point of attack. His strength is one big reason he found so much success at nose tackle in college. Registered 27 reps on the bench at his pro day, but appears stronger on tape.
Pocket Collapse: 6/10 - Despite his ability to reset the line of scrimmage and get a good jump off the ball, this is not a player who will be getting around linemen at the next level and crashing into any passing pockets or pursuing the quarterback. At least not yet in his development.
Gap Management: 8/10 - McNeill can play in a two-gap system and hog up the A-gap for opposing running backs. He'll hold his gaps well, almost as well as anyone else in this class.
Block Shedding: 6/10 - Not a guy who is going to wow you with any pass-rushing moves or any technique to deconstruct a block. His wins come more from get-off and power with full extension, rather than breaking down blocks. This is an area he will need to develop in order to get more playing time at the next level. He is capable of developing this ability here with time.
Tackling: 7/10 - McNeill wraps up well, but it's worth noting that he lacks some flexibility and has some tightness in his upper body that potentially could make things difficult for him in the pros. As of right now, his tackling is more or less average and how it should be. In other words, there are no complaints here.
Hand Placement: 8/10 - Plays with strong, heavy hands that are powerful and violent at the point of attack. He frequently gets full extension on his blockers and can use his hands to help out-leverage opposing linemen.
Power Rush: 8/10 - McNeill's power is what will write the checks for him. If this nose tackle can rush the opposing quarterback and collapse the pocket at the next level, it will come from his power in the early stages of his development.
Finesse Rush: 4.5/10 - McNeill might not have a pass-rushing move in his repertoire. Very raw when it comes to having the required skills to break down a block. His spin move is very much in need of work. He has the footwork to develop, but none of the technique and fundamentals are there.
Explosiveness: 9/10 - Has a strong combination of power and quickness that allows him to maneuver a football field a lot more efficiently and quicker than most defensive tackles. His get-off the ball and explosion out of his stance is likely the best in this class and will be a problem for lineman in the pros.
Anchor: 9/10 - Extremely stout anchor who can frequently out-leverage players and rarely get pushed around. Any player who can push this guy around is a player you want on your team.
Motor: 7/10 - Can move well and make plays along the sideline and on outside zone runs. McNeill is more athletic and faster than most of the 300+ pound players in the league now, and gives good effort till the final whistle.
Big Play Factor: 6/10 - McNeill had 7 sacks in 2019 and 13 run stops every season of his college career. Yet, especially for the position and role he was asked to play of simply resetting the line of scrimmage and hogging up gaps, he's likely an average big play factor at nose tackle. With a limited pass-rushing repertoire, that puts a huge dent into any potential big plays from him.
Draft Grade: Round 4
Fit with the Patriots:
We've already seen the New England Patriots address their front seven, the defensive tackle spot, and specifically the absence of run-stuffing nose tackles. While that spot may hold up fine in the short run, with the ink just drying for Davon Godchaux (presumptive starter at NT), Henry Anderson and Lawerence Guy, who can all play in that spot, the long term is the question.
With McNeill having the looks of a third-, fourth-round pick, this might be the perfect time for the Patriots to swing on landing the potential starting nose tackle of the future. The 320-pound McNeill can serve the team early on in run-heavy looks and short-yardage situations. McNeill can then work on his pass-rushing ability to become a more consistent force up front and slowly work his way into the starting lineup as these new deals along the defensive line get closer and closer to expiring.
McNeill likely would be a rather boring selection for the fans, as using a day two, early day three pick on a guy who will likely take some time to become a contributor doesn't exactly excite. However, McNeill has a high ceiling and the potential to really learn and grow in an ideal situation. One could argue that McNeill's best landing spot for his development may be New England, and one could argue that McNeill might be one of the best guys for what the Patriots are looking for. McNeill has the potential to grow into an even more versatile piece along the line who could play in more spots than just his traditional nose tackle, 0-technique spot. With that, McNeill would provide a lot of pluses as we look into the future of the position.