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2021 NFL Draft: How Alim McNeill impacts Detroit Lions roster

A double dip at defensive tackle for Detroit.

Florida State v North Carolina State Photo by Lance King/Getty Images

Deja vu?

For the second time on Day 2, the Detroit Lions have selected a defensive tackle. This time, they select Alim McNeill from NC State.

Player selected: Alim McNeill

Position: DT

Current players on roster at DT:

  • John Atkins
  • Michael Brockers
  • Jashon Cornell
  • Da’Shawn Hand
  • Joel Heath
  • John Penisini
  • Kevin Strong
  • Nick Williams
  • Levi Onwuzurike

Offseason losses at DT:

  • Danny Shelton


I just wrote about how different this defensive line will look in 2021. Apparently, I spoke too soon. The Lions added another defensive tackle in the draft, adding to their emphasis on dominating the trenches. McNeill will join Onwuzurike as the youngsters on defense, and both present a significant change of pace from the Lions defense in years past.

McNeill is primarily a nose tackle, a role previously filled by the now-released Danny Shelton. With John Penisini as the main nose tackle on the roster, the Lions felt the need for an upgrade along the interior again. McNeill projects as a force in the run game, but unlike Shelton and Penisini, he has plenty of pass rushing potential. Explosiveness is a strength for McNeill, and he, Onwuzurike, and Brockers should headline a shiny new defensive line.

McNeill does not conflict with Da’Shawn Hand in terms of role, but he may present a challenge for a roster spot in general. Penisini is most significantly impacted by McNeill as a pure nose tackle, and he does not possess the upside of McNeill as a pass rusher. Given a new regime, there is no guarantee he even makes the team. Williams, Strong, Cornell, and others likely get a bump down the depth chart. The Lions had four defensive tackles last season, and we could see some noteworthy names missing the cut.

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