Detroit Lions 2021 draft: Instant reactions and grades

Penei Sewell, Detroit Lions (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Penei Sewell, Detroit Lions (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /
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Alim McNeill , Detroit Lions
Alim McNeil, Detroit Lions (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images) /

Round 3 pick 72: Alim McNeil, DT, NC State

The third straight pick spent on a lineman, and the second straight on the defensive side. This time it’s Alim McNeil out of NC State coming to the motor city. The Detroit Lions are sending a message to the entire league with these picks, they are not going to be fun to play against in the trenches.

During a three-year career at NC State, McNeil pitched in 10 sacks, 77 total tackles, and 17.5 tackles for loss. He only managed a single sack this past season, but he attributes that to seeing more double teams this year compared to his previous two seasons.

At 6-foot-2, 315 pounds McNeil is another interior presence that can collapse the pocket. Both he and Onwuzurike were among the few that had that ability in this thin defensive tackle class, now both are coming to the motor city.

Despite being such a big guy, he’s actually very athletic, actually shockingly so given he’s over 300 pounds. Another athletic piece added to this defensive front in Brad Holmes’ effort to make this Lions defense just that, faster and more athletic.

McNeil looks like he will start as the Lions nose tackle and he will mostly be used on early downs as a run-stuffer, while occasionally chipping in as a pass rusher. He is a fairly raw prospect and will take some time to fully develop, however, he has the strength to make an impact right from the start of his time in Detroit.

Dan Campbell said the Lions needed to be tougher to play against, and then Detroit proceeded to spend their first three selections on big boys that will play in the trenches. Clearly, there was a big emphasis in that area. While I would have preferred to see the Lions address a different position, I can see the value in this pick.

Grade: B-