Next up in the Unpacking a Future Packers countdown is Alim McNeill. The NC State defensive tackle checks in at number 40 in the countdown.
The 2021 NFL Draft is loaded with talent at several positions, unfortunately for the Green Bay Packers, the interior defensive line is not one of those positions.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t talent to be had. At the top of the class is Alabama’s Christian Barmore, Washington’s Levi Onwuzurke, and Iowa’s Davison Nixon. Behind those three there are hidden gems. North Carolina State’s Alim McNeill is a day two prospect that could develop into a run-stuffing nose tackle at the next level.
McNeill came to NC State as a four-star recruit. During his first year on campus, McNeill recorded 5.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks.
In 2019, McNeill recorded 7.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks. This past season McNeill recorded 4.5 tackles for loss, one sack, and had one pick-six.
“Alim came to NC State as a big-time recruit, a local kid who had a late offer from Alabama but picked State,” Jonas Pope IV, the NC State reporter for Herald-Sun said. “So expectations were high from the time he showed up. But the 2020 season was his first time as a full-time starter because he was behind a future pro – Larrell Muchison – in 2019. When he got the job in 2020 he finally showed State fans what they expected from him since he was a freshman. He put it all together as a starter, which is why he’s in this position to be drafted.”
McNeill is a good athlete for a man his size (6’2 320 pounds). He has an explosive first step and great short-area quickness to make plays up and down the line of scrimmage. McNeill has excellent balance and body control to shoot gaps.
“He’s so strong and powerful,” Pope said. “He’s in the 320-pound range and was one of the strongest guys in the weight room. He’s hard to move from his spot and is a very athletic guy. He played running back in high school at 270 pounds and was close to playing baseball at NC State. So not only is he strong, he can really move and chase down ball carriers.”
Not only does McNeill have impressive twitch for a man his size, but he’s also as strong as a bull. He’s able to push lineman back into the quarterback’s lap with a devastating bull-rush.
“He has strong, powerful hands,” Pope said. “He has a good punch to get offensive linemen off balance. Again, he’s powerful, so when he explodes from the lower body, so quickly off the line, it gives him an advantage.”
McNeill is a run-stuffing nose tackle. He plays with great leverage and power. He’s strong at the point of attack and does a great job of taking on double teams.
“He’s almost impossible to move,” Pope said. “He stands his ground and what I noticed about him during the season is after plays he’s never on the ground, on his back. He doesn’t, or rarely gets blocked or pancaked. Again, he’s stout and is rarely pushed off his spot.”
Fit with the Packers
The Packers need to get Kenny Clark help along the defensive line. Dean Lowry, Tyler Lancaster, and company just aren’t getting it done. Plain and simple, they need more playmakers.
McNeill has all the tools in the shed to develop into a disruptive force upfront. He flashed that potential at NC State finishing his career with 17.5 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, and 36 pressures. He also has the versatility to play anywhere along the defensive line.
“He hasn’t scratched the surface with how good he can be,” Pope said. “Just one season as a full-time starter, so a lot of football left in front of him. Also, high-quality kid, everyone around the program has nothing but good things to say about him. Can be a future pro bowler at the nose guard position, a guy who can start for 10 years in the trenches.”
The NFL Draft is all about long-term projection. McNeill has the potential to turn into a Javon Hargrave-like player for the Packers. McNeill could be a guy that is a force against the run while boosting a team’s interior pass rush. If he’s on the board when the Packers are on the clock in the third round it would be a no-brainer selection.