From now until the 2021 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to showcase as many prospects as possible and examine both their strengths and weaknesses. Most of these profiles will feature individuals that the Pittsburgh Steelers are likely to have an interest in, while a few others will be top-ranked players. If there is a player you would like us to analyze, let us know in the comments below.
#29 Alim McNeill / IDL North Carolina State – 6020 325
- Massively strong at the point of attack; very good anchor vs double teams
- Has good quickness and hand placement at the snap; can ragdoll blockers
- Controls his gaps well and is system diverse
- Good mental processing to read blocks and beat blockers to the gap
- Very good balance, you’ll rarely find him off his feet
- Can get push within the pocket when pass rushing
- Limited as a pass rusher and will likely come out on passing downs
- Change of direction is marginal
- Adequate awareness of down blocks and blocks coming from his side
- Not going to make a lot of plays outside of the tackle box
- Limited tackle radius
- Career – 77 tackles, 36 solo, 17.5 TFL, 10 sacks, 1 INT for 18 yards, 1 TD, 5 pass break ups, 1 fumble recovery, 2 forced fumble
- 2020 – 25 tackles, 6 solo, 4.5 TFL, 1 sack, 1 INT for 18 yards, 1 TD, 1 fumble recovery, 1 forced fumble
- 2020 – First team All-ACC
- 32 games, 17 starts
- Has a 640-pound squat and a 445 bench press
- Named to Bruce Feldman’s Freaks list that highlights players with rare physical abilities
- In high school, played inside linebacker and was used as a rusher. Also played baseball.
- Brother Jabril will play for Oregon
McNeill is entering the NFL draft after his junior year. He has been the anchor in the middle of the North Carolina State’s odd front defense over the past couple years. For the most part he aligned right over the center but had some snaps at the 3 and 4i technique positions.
As a pass rusher, he has good quickness at the snap and has good hand quickness and placement. Throughout his game you will see his very good play strength come into play. He has active hands and good hand strength and can latch on to use a push/pull to remove blockers from his path. He has good leg drive and pad level to bull blockers in to the pocket and will also try a spin move or a rip to attempt to get pressure. When the pass rush isn’t getting home he will get his hands up into throwing lanes. He has the potential to be a penetrator on stunts and twists to open up rushing lanes for teammates.
Vs Syracuse, he shows good burst at the snap and use his quick hands to pull the center to get him out of the passing lane for the sack.
There are different ways to get a sack. Versus Duke, he is engaged with the center and when the quarterback begins to scramble forward he uses his play strength to shove the center back into the quarterback to knock him down.
It’s a rule. You have to show big guy touchdowns. Against Virginia, with three blockers in front of him there is nowhere to go so he reads the QB and gets his hands up to tip the ball in the air, make the interception and run it in for the score.
Against the run, he is a linebacker’s best friend controlling his gaps so they can attack. Playing as a two gap defender he uses his quickness, pad level and hand placement to reset the line of scrimmage. He has the hand strength to lock on and control the center, plays with his eyes up and has the play strength to shed when a runner comes in his gap. He has very good balance. It was rare to see him on the ground. Against Zone runs his mental processing is good and he reacts to blockers quickly able keep the center from getting across his face and holds his ground while working down the line of scrimmage. He is very good against double teams. He has got the sand in the pants and is nearly immovable. Once a ball carrier gets in his grasp the play is over, they don’t slip out.
Vs Duke, he displays his quickness to beat the block of the center and get in the backfield to disrupt the run.
At North Carolina, he shows his play strength to lift the center out of his way and make the tackle near the end zone.
Vs Miami, the center and right guard are going to double McNeill to drive him out of the way. He doesn’t move with two guys pushing on him and reaches out with his right arm to make the tackle.
His pass rush plan is limited with marginal lateral agility to stress blockers and he doesn’t have the change of direction to flatten or change his route when he gets around blockers. They used him as the looper on stunts without much success. He needs to improve his awareness of down blocks and those coming from his sides. These were the most successful at displacing him. His tackle radius is low. He’s not going to make a lot of plays outside of the tackle box and is mostly limited to the gaps right next to him.
Overall, McNeill has good quickness and uses his hands well and has the balance and play strength to be and anchor in the middle of a defensive line. He fits as a 0/1 tech defensive tackle and can play in a 1 or 2 gap scheme.
He is Casey Hampton- like being nearly the same height and weight. He’ll be a stout run defender and while he will occasionally be able to get pressure it is more likely he will come out on passing downs in the NFL. He is someone who will play in base defense 25-30 snaps.
Projection: 4th Round
Games Watched: 2019 – Vs Syracuse; 2020 Vs Duke, At North Carolina, Vs Miami, Vs Georgia Tech