The Wolfpacker

Sept./Oct. 2021

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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2021 NFL Preview F Alim McNeill Is Making An Instant Impression As A Rookie 2021 NFL Preview 38 ■ THE WOLFPACKER McNeill was selected in the third round with the 72nd overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft, and exceeded all expectations in the preseason per Lions defensive line coach Todd Wash. PHOTO COURTESY DETROIT LIONS BY MATT CARTER ormer NC State nose tackle Alim McNeill bet on himself when he left college with two years of potential eligibility left to enter the NFL Draft follow- ing an All-America campaign in 2020. It appears that wager has paid off for both McNeill and the team that selected him in the third round, the Detroit Lions. "He's better than I thought when we drafted him, to be honest," first- year defensive line coach Todd Wash told "I think we would all say that. We knew he was a heck of a run defender. He's stout at the point, but he's a lot better athlete than he showed on tape, which for us was unbe- lievable. "He's not just an A-gap-to-A- gap player, so if he can continue to get better … I think he can be an exceptional nose guard in this league in time. "His athletic ability, his ability to stay square, play lateral to the line of scrimmage [are assets]. You know, with bigger guys, sometimes these zone schemes give them is- sues. But Alim, that's not an issue. He's got great lateral movement." McNeill's background likely provided the Lions with sufficient evidence of his raw athleticism. He made Bruce Feldman's "Freaks" List for college football's best athletes ahead of the 2020 season. When he came to NC State, McNeill entertained the idea of playing baseball in addition to performing on the gridiron. McNeill's Relative Athletic Score (RAS) entering the draft was 8.53, which would rank in the top 15 percentile among 1,309 defensive tackles drafted between 1987 and 2021. Or the Lions could have watched him tip a pass at the line, snag the ball out of the air

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