The Detroit Lions surprised many folks when they selected back-to-back defensive tackles in the NFL Draft, and when they grabbed Alim McNeill, many were even more surprised given they didn’t know his name.
It seems, though, another team had McNeill high on their draft board. The Philadelphia Eagles traded back in the third-round and seemed content to given they may have figured McNeill would be on the board. The Lions, after all, had just drafted fellow defensive tackle Levi Onwuzurike in the second-round. No way they’d take another lineman, right? Wrong.
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Tuesday, it was confirmed that the Eagles and specifically Tom Donahoe had eyes on McNeill before the Lions pulled a bit of a surprise and grabbed him. That forced the Eagles into a different plan, and they grabbed Milton Williams of Louisiana Tech.
Howie Roseman said on WIP this morning Tom Donahoe wanted NC State DT Alim McNeill when #Eagles traded back for Milton Williams.
Can confirm from 2 independent sources that was the case. But he wasn’t only one who wanted McNeill. Donahoe also thought another 6th was needless.
— Jeff McLane (@Jeff_McLane) May 4, 2021
It will be fascinating to see which prospect turns out better, but it’s clear the Lions were very unpredictable in their first draft under Brad Holmes. Clearly, defensive line may not have been a huge need on paper, but the Lions grabbed the player they thought was the best on their board, frustrating the Eagles along the way.
McNeill Called ‘Legitimate Monster’
What are the Lions getting with McNeill? He brings with him the ability to be an absolute unicorn up front. Big, physical and yet deft, McNeill has experience playing both offense and defense, though he played primarily on the defensive side of the ball in college. He also played baseball, pointing to his overall athleticism for a big guy.
Now, he will be counted on to beef up Detroit’s needy defensive front, and many believe he can do just that. Coming into the draft process, McNeill was a favorite of Pro Football Focus, who referred to him as one of the better defensive line prospects around.
— Barstool Pack (@BarstoolPack) May 1, 2021
“One of my favorite players in this class, a guy that’s not being talked about enough. He’s a nose guard for the Wolfpack. He wears number 29. He is a former linebacker and running back in high school. He was a legitimate monster at running back in high school, had offers from Alabama amongst other blue blood programs. Goes to NC State and absolutely dominates. One of the highest run defense rates in the country, one of the highest pass rush win rates in the country. This guy is a legitimate inside line prospect who can win early in the snap as a pass rusher.”
In Detroit, he will be counted on to plug the middle of the line and generate some push toward the pocket to fix the trouble the Lions have in the trenches.
McNeill’s Stats and Highlights
While playing for N.C. State, McNeill collected 77 tackles, 17.5 tackles for-loss, 10 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and 5 passes defended. He also scored 1 touchdown in his career. Obviously, those are the type of numbers that point to a guy who can move around and make a lot of plays along a front, which is just what he will be asked to do with the Lions and their very needy defensive line.
Here’s a look at some highlights of McNeill:
The Lions are hoping the athleticism that is shown in these clips shines through to help him become a star at the next level. It’s possible multiple teams felt that way about McNeill and the Lions just happened to steal him at the right time.
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