Detroit Lions pick DT Alim McNeill from North Carolina State in Round 3 of 2021 NFL draft
After building the trenches with their first two selections in the 2021 NFL draft, the Detroit Lions have added another big man, picking North Carolina State junior defensive tackle Alim McNeill at No. 72 overall, the eighth pick of the third round Friday night.
Sense a theme under general manager Brad Holmes and head coach Dan Campbell?
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McNeill is 6 feet 2 and 317 pounds.
In high school, he played inside linebacker and running back at over 250 pounds, and was a three-time all-conference pick in baseball.
McNeill is a big body who can control the line of scrimmage and stuff the run. But he also has good ability to penetrate and notched nine sacks his first two seasons with the Wolfpack. He earned All-ACC honors last season with 26 tackles, 4½ for loss, one sack and one interception in 11 appearances.
In 2019 as a sophomore, he finished with 28 tackles, 7½ for loss, and 5½ sacks in 12 games.
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McNeill had just one sack as a junior after he said opponents started paying a lot more attention to him.
"My sophomore year I got more one-on-one blocks," he told Detroit reporters Friday night. "Going into junior season I didn’t see any. I didn’t have any one-on-one blocks. It was more double- and triple-teams with guards coming down."
But that didn't stop McNeill from being effective and disruptive. In fact, his lone interception came in October against Virginia, when he beat faced a triple team but still tipped Lindell Stone's pass to himself and ran it in from 18 yards out.
McNeill provided an highly detailed expert analysis of the play Friday.
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"So on the pick-six I was actually in triple-team on that and I was a rush-and-cover guy," he said. "So I was making sure the quarterback didn’t step up in the pocket and run through the B-gaps or the A-gaps.
"He threw it, he had a low trajectory, and he had kind of a sidearm type of slot so I knew he was throwing pretty low through the B-gaps. So I seen his eyes, I went and attacked the B-gap, got my hands up, was able to bat it, it was in the air and I just went and tracked it down like an outfielder and just brought it in. And that point I knew I was scoring."
McNeill has scheme versatility and is a fit in both odd- or even-man fronts. He’s considered a good athlete — yes, he was a high school outfielder — and converted from linebacker to tackle as a freshman.
"It wasn’t that hard of a transition for me," he said of moving to tackle. "After about a week of college football of being in camp and stuff like that I was able to catch on to it pretty quick and I put myself in a team need.
"Me being able to use my athleticism was what really pushed me over the edge, being able to make moves on guards and stuff than I was a lot quicker than."
McNeill didn't go into great detail about his predraft meeting with the Lions, but he said it was thoroughly enjoyable with both sides apparently making a connection.
"I remember it was a great meeting," he said. "I loved every moment of every minute of it. I remember they were really impressed with how I interviewed with them as well. Overall it was just a great meeting."
Earlier in the night in the second round, the Lions took Washington defensive tackle Levi Onwuzurike at No. 41 overall. He seems like a perfect fit in Detroit under head coach Dan Campbell, with his "I like (bleeping) people up" post-draft quote.
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In Thursday's first round, the Lions picked Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell.
The Lions have another third-round pick at No. 101, from the Matthew Stafford trade with the Los Angeles Rams.
On Saturday, the Lions only have two picks, one each in the fourth and fifth rounds.
Contact Carlos Monarrez at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.