A former linebacker and running back, NC State’s Alim McNeill combines strength and athleticism to be a dangerous defensive tackle in this 2021 NFL Draft class. In a position group that lacks a standout name, is the Wolfpack leader an under-the-radar contender to be the best in the class?
Alim McNeill NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Defensive Tackle
- School: North Carolina State
- Current Year: Junior
- Height: 6’1 7/8″
- Weight: 317 pounds
Tony Pauline’s Alim McNeill Scouting Report
Positives: Explosive one-gap defensive lineman who can be used at nose tackle or as a three-technique lineman. Fires off the snap with a quick first step, plays with outstanding pad level, and gets leverage on opponents. Fires his hands into blockers, working them to protect himself or get off opponents.
Focused on by opponents and attracts double-team blocks yet holds his ground. Fluid moving laterally, displays good change-of-direction skills, and shows power in his game. Shoots through gaps and overruns defenders to penetrate the line of scrimmage.[sv slug=”drizly”]
Negatives: Out-positioned by a single blocker and gets caught up in the wash. Average pass rusher.
Analysis: McNeill is a short, squat-bodied defensive tackle who can be used in a variety of schemes at the next level. Though not a pass rusher, he can be a disruptive lineman and will start in the right system.
Alim McNeill Player Profile
Perhaps no player in the 2021 NFL Draft has displayed a more significant transformation from high school to college as Alim McNeill. The now 320-pound NC State defensive tackle was once a 270-pound linebacker at Sanderson High School. In addition to his football prowess, McNeill was also a three-time All-Conference baseball player.
However, it was on the gridiron where he excelled the most. Even as a sophomore at Sanderson, he was highly productive. In 2015, he recorded 71 tackles, 9 tackles for loss, and 7 sacks. The linebacker would also line up as a running back in short-yardage situations and racked up 12 of his 36 career touchdowns as a sophomore.
Although he would be most productive as a junior, he earned Cap 7 Conference Player of the Year honors as a senior. Furthermore, he demonstrated leadership as a team captain.
Before he became a coveted NFL Draft prospect, elite college programs heavily recruited Alim McNeill. The four-star recruit and 10th-ranked player in North Carolina earned over 25 offers from programs across the nation. Despite a late effort from Alabama to secure his services, he narrowed it down to a final three of Virginia Tech, Michigan, and NC State. Opting to stay close to home, McNeill committed to play defensive tackle for NC State.
Alim McNeill’s college football career at NC State
Alim McNeill arrived at NC State as they lost two defensive tackles and defensive end, Bradley Chubb, to the NFL Draft. As a result, the linebacker-turned-defensive tackle had the opportunity to get immediate playing time. He made his debut against James Madison, displaying his disruptive capabilities with a pass breakup. One week later, he’d secure his first tackle for loss and sack against Georgia State.
A freshman All-American with 24 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, and 3.5 sacks, McNeill was just getting started. He made six starts as a sophomore in 2019 and earned honorable mention All-ACC. McNeill continued to be a disruptive force from the interior, racking up 7.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks. In the highlight of his season, he secured 2 sacks and 2 tackles for loss against rival North Carolina.
Facing the disruption of the 2020 college football season, he continued to turn in impressive performances. In the season opener, McNeill left his mark on Wake Forest with a forced fumble and 2 tackles for loss. He also produced one of the highlights of the season with a big-man touchdown against Virginia. Despite being triple-teamed at the line of scrimmage, the NC State defensive tackle managed to reach up and tip a pass to himself, rumbling into the end zone for the score.
Following the season’s conclusion, Alim McNeill opted to forego his remaining eligibility and declare for the 2021 NFL Draft.
Alim McNeill’s best fits in the 2021 NFL Draft
The NC State defensive tackle has incredible athleticism at the position. Once teams catch on to his abilities, Alim McNeill will likely rocket up 2021 NFL Draft boards. His best fit is as a true nose tackle in a three-man front as that was his predominant alignment at NC State. However, he could also play in a four-man front as a one-technique defensive tackle.
Teams like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Denver Broncos, and Chicago Bears make obvious landing spots for Alim McNeill in the 2021 NFL Draft. Even then, his versatility and athleticism make him a desirable commodity for any team with a need across the defensive line.
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