2021 NFL Draft: Alim McNeill Player Profile

Alim McNeill 2021 NFL Draft Overview

Position: Defensive Tackle
Height: 6’-2”
Weight: 320 pounds
School: North Carolina State

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Alim McNeill 2021 NFL Draft Profile

The Sanderson High School standout Alim McNeill stayed close to home to play college football, playing three years under Dave Doeren for the NC State Wolfpack. McNeill, who played both baseball and football in high school, shined as a true freshman. As a freshman, McNeill played in 11 games, posting 3.5 sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss, while forcing one fumble. The 3.5 sacks are impressive for McNeil, who at 320 pounds, primarily played as a 0 and 1-technique for the Wolfpack, lining up over the center. He even defended three passes as a freshman by swatting passes at the line of scrimmage, a skill that has been increasingly necessary at the NFL level. 

McNeill built upon his excellent freshman season by increasing his numbers across the board. In 2019, he had 5.5 sacks, 7.5 tackles for loss, and 28 tackles. While these numbers do not exemplify his true impact as a nose tackle, it highlights his impact even when playing with other NFL-caliber defensive lineman. In 2018, McNeill’s freshman season, NC State had four defensive linemen who were selected in the NFL draft, Bradley Chubb, B.J. Hill, Justin Jones, and Kentavius Street. Then, McNeill’s ability to hold double teams contributed to the rise of Germaine Pratt at the linebacker position. Finally, NC State had two more defensive linemen drafted last season. 

With all this talent, McNeill broke out into the National Spotlight in 2020. Despite not having the same counting stats, McNeill was a first-team All-American in Pro Football Focus’s ranking, winning 10% of his pass-rushing snaps and posting the second-highest PFF grade for a 0-technique since 2014. McNeill even added a pick-six to his resume, his first and only touchdown in his college career. 

Strengths

  • Excellent at holding double teams, allowing linebackers to fill the gaps;
  • A Standout at stopping the run, excellent use of hands for block shedding;
  • NFL-caliber strength and athleticism with a 4.94 40-yard dash and 27 reps on the bench press;
  • Solid bull rush from the interior, limiting quarterbacks from stepping up in the pocket;
  • Consistent effort in the run game; doesn’t take many plays off. 

Weaknesses

  • Limited arsenal in the pass-rush; relies too much on the bull rush; 
  • Could be a two-down lineman or be off the field in passing situations;
  • May not translate as a 4-3 defensive tackle because of pass-rushing deficiency;
  • Length could be an issue to block shed at the NFL level.

NFL Comparison: DaRon Payne

Teams with a Need at Defensive Tackle: Dallas Cowboys, Houston Texans, Cleveland Browns, Las Vegas Raiders, Seattle Seahawks

Projection: 2nd/3rd Round

Bottom Line on Alim McNeill

While he is still raw as a pass rusher, McNeill could play a valuable role in the NFL in his rookie season. He is already excellent at holding double teams with his 320-pound frame, which could be enticing to a team like the Dallas Cowboys who have invested heavily in their linebacker corps. McNeill can not only hold double teams, but also make plays in the backfield, as evident by his 17.5 tackles for loss at NC State. 

However, McNeill’s weakness lies in the pass-rush, with his lack of moves on the interior and push as a whole. In the early stages of the NFL career, McNeil will most likely be on the field on first and second down, while being taken off in obvious passing situations. But, there is another perspective regarding McNeill’s pass-rushing skills. He had ten sacks at NC State without a plethora of moves. If he could learn from NFL defensive line coaches to grow his arsenal, he could become a disruptive force in the passing game. 

Alim McNeill is most likely the best pure 0-technique in the draft class and the second-best defensive tackle, behind Christian Barmore. While it is possible that McNeill could slip to the third round, he should hear his name called on Day 2, probably in the second round. At just 20 years of age, McNeill contains the upside of a first-round prospect, while being able to contribute to an NFL defense right away. 

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