NAME: Alim McNeill
POSITION: Defensive Tackle
SCHOOL: North Carolina State
WEIGHT: 320 pounds
A native of Raleigh, North Carolina, Alim McNeill played high school football at Sanderson High School in Raleigh. He was not only a football standout, but also a highly regarded baseball player as well. During his high school baseball career, McNeill was an academic all-conference performer four times. He was named all-conference performer on the diamond for three years. In addition, McNeill batted a healthy .355 as a senior right fielder. On the gridiron, the NC State product played linebacker and running back in high school.
Before committing to the Wolfpack, 247Sports ranked him as a four-star recruit. McNeill was also rated as the tenth best prospect in the state of North Carolina. Throughout his college football career, McNeill registered 78 total tackles. His lone career interception was quite the highlight, as the ball was tipped and the defensive tackle returned it for a touchdown. McNeill was named an All-American by both The Athletic and Pro Football Focus in 2020. To boot, he earned honors like first team All-ACC in his junior season. Afterwards, McNeill elected to forego his senior season at NC State and entered the 2021 NFL Draft.
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Hand To Hand Combat
McNeill presents extremely active hands. With this, he is able to keep opposing offensive linemen on their heels. Not only are McNeill’s hands violent, but he still keeps them under control. He understands how to play in a box and in short areas. More importantly, McNeill does not waste time or reps by putting his hands and punches in bad spots. He combines a strong mixture of hand placement and timing with mammoth functional strength. That ability to reset the line of scrimmage makes life easier for the rest of his defensive teammates. McNeill can blow blockers back with a stunning amount of pop.
McNeill provides tremendous get off at the snap of the football. This is an encouraging aspect for him to have in his current toolbox, because it helps to hide his lack of length. Going back to how he resets the line of scrimmage, McNeill is able to control gaps well with how explosive he can be. This is part of the reason as to why McNeill was listed on Bruce Feldman’s Freak List for 2020. He just instills so much juice into the defensive line and the front seven. And even if McNeill cannot get in position to finish plays, there is so much attention being placed on him. This allows teammates to pursuit quickly, as a result. He is not sudden. But, McNeill moves smoothly for a defensive tackle.
Defending The Run
Possibly, there is not very many other interior defensive linemen in this 2021 draft class who defends the run better than McNeill. Understanding how to use his leverage and stay low at the point of attack aides him in making stops. Not only can he control gaps, but McNeill also fills urgently and muscles through blocks without much counter moves. Amazingly, double teams rarely seem to faze him. Opposing blockers struggle mightily to move him out of his run fit in one on one situations. Finding how to crash at the correct or more beneficial angles will be the biggest area of improvement here. When opponents are able to complete down blocks across his face, McNeill can struggle to work through those clogged lanes. But overall, he is an exceptional gap penetrator and run stuffer.
Read And React Skills
The biggest area of improvement for McNeill when entering the NFL will be his read and react ability. Many times, his processor is a bit slow or he can get his wires crossed in traffic. Other scouting reports and analysts have harped on his ability to finish. This first starts with improving his ability to read blocks and position himself in a spot to make the play. McNeill can play almost too hot and heavy at times. Being able to better control his frame and stay patient will be a work in progress. Once again, McNeill has only played defensive tackle during his three years at North Carolina State. More reps and increased timing will help as he continues to grow as a football player.
Pass Rush Ability
Can McNeill improve as a pass rusher? There is power and explosiveness to like. Yet, McNeill does not have a wide array of pass rush moves in his arsenal. He struggles to combat and counter technically sound blockers. Being able to string together multiple moves has been a work in progress. Moreover, McNeill tends to be hesitant with what angle is best for him to get after the quarterback. Not knowing if it was scheme based with the Wolfpack, or if it was McNeill himself, one wonders why he is not using quicker, sharper angles. NC State took him off the field often in obvious passing situations too. If teams believe they can improve him in this area, McNeill will see an increase in playing time.
As much as McNeill can overpower opponents, disengaging or deconstructing blocks can become hit or miss. Sustaining more counters and having a more advantageous plan to beat opponents will need to be instilled. Going back to being able to finish, McNeill can look to develop a greater range of how to attack on plays that go wide or take longer to evolve. He can hide this fairly well occasionally. However, McNeill has struggled to feel or handle longer reaching opponents before it is too late.
Knowing he has only played on the defensive line for three seasons, Alim McNeill may still have his best football left ahead of him. The Kansas City Chiefs will need to add more juice to their defensive line in 2021. In order to support both Chris Jones and Frank Clark, the team will need to invigorate that unit with youth eventually. McNeill’s prowess as a run defender would bolster a Chiefs unit that has ranked in the bottom half of the league in total run defense in five consecutive campaigns. In addition, Mike Pennel is a pending free agent and likely will not be back. His role and overall output was down from what he provided in 2019. Furthermore, McNeill would be able to provide an immediate impact alongside Jones, as a dominating defensive tackle duo.
Be on the lookout for more FPC Chiefs draft prospect profiles throughout the winter and spring. For more great sports and NFL content, stay tuned to Full Press Coverage.
– Braden Holecek is the Kansas City Chiefs managing editor for Full Press Coverage. He covers the NFL. Like and follow on Follow @ebearcat9//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js Follow @FPC_Chiefs//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js and Facebook.