The Detroit Lions have doubled up on defensive tackles to start Day 2 of the 2021 NFL Draft.
After selecting Washington defensive tackle Levi Onwuzurike in Round 2, Lions general manager Brad Holmes went right back to the well for more defensive interior help in Round 3 by taking NC State defensive tackle Alim McNeill.
A two-year starter at NC State, McNeill was the nose tackle in the Wolfpack's 3-3-5 scheme, lining up primarily head up over the center in the zero technique.
A linebacker and running back in high school, McNeill transitioned to defensive tackle for the Wolfpack and made Bruce Feldman's Freaks List due to his extreme athleticism. He bench presses 445 pounds and squats 640 pounds.
"After about a week of college football and camp I was able to catch onto it pretty quick," McNeill said Friday of the transition to defensive line. "Me being able to use my athleticism was really what pushed me over the edge being able to make moves on guards that I was a lot quicker than. That's what really helped me and kind of gave me an edge over guys while playing in games."
He was a First-Team All-ACC performer this past season with 26 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, one sack, one pass defended, one interception and one touchdown. He had 7.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks in 2019.
McNeill said his decline in sacks this past season was due to the fact that he faced double teams on every play in 2020 after a monster 2019 season.
"It's a very key position," McNeill said of playing nose tackle. "But you have to have the mindset that I'm here to plug gaps and I'm going to create havoc and I'm going to destroy blocks and make plays in the backfield, while also doing my job. Nose tackle is a very important position, so that's the mindset you have to have."
Holmes and head coach Dan Campbell seem to have targeted the interior of their defensive line as a need heading into this draft.
The Lions have now gone big with their first three picks, drafting an offensive tackle and two defensive tackles.
"The games, they're won and started in the trenches," McNeill said. "I feel like that's where (the Lions) wanted to go at."
View photos of the Lions' 3rd round pick, Alim McNeill, DT - North Carolina State.