The strength of the New York Giants is their defense. Undeniably the strongest positional group on New York’s defense is their defensive line. The trio of Dalvin Tomlinson, Leonard Williams, and Dexter Lawrence dominated in 2020. This group cost numerous assets to put together, but the Giants saw plenty of returns on their investments this past season.
Leonard Williams had a career-year with 11.5 sacks. Dalvin Tomlinson also continued to stand out, racking up 3.5 sacks and 49 combined tackles. Dexter Lawrence was phenomenal in his second year, posting 4 sacks and 53 combined tackles. It will be a major point of emphasis for the Giants to keep this trio together and build the defense around this unit.
However, the Giants are entering a crucial free agency period where they could lose one or two of these defensive linemen. Both Leonard Williams and Dalvin Tomlinson are free agents. It will be a top priority for the Giants to sign these players to contract extensions. But if one of them walks, it would be a huge blow to the defense and would force them to turn their attentions towards the interior defensive line prospects in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Fortunately, there are some really intriguing defensive line prospects in the middle rounds of this year’s draft class. One exciting prospect to keep an eye on is Alim McNeill out of NC State. McNeill is a sleeper prospect that has begun rising up draft boards in recent weeks. If the Giants lose Dalvin Tomlinson in free agency, Alim McNeill would be the perfect nose tackle replacement to target in the draft.
Alim McNeill stats and highlights
Describe a unicorn. How about a 315-pound nose tackle that can hit 18 miles per hour on a treadmill and rush the passer with great efficiency? That sounds like a unicorn. That also sounds like Alim McNeill. Alim McNeill is a freakishly athletic interior defensive lineman that might somehow fall into the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
McNeill was initially projected as a third or fourth-round draft pick. However, in recent weeks, talent evaluators like Pro Football Focus have begun to hype up McNeill and tout him as a second-round prospect. It is not difficult to see what PFF sees when they praise Alim McNeill.
Nose tackles that can defend the run are common. But nose tackles that can pass-rush are rare. Alim McNeill was proficient at doing both in college. McNeill lined up as a 0-tech in college but was still able to find production as a pass-rusher, which is highly uncommon from that defensive alignment. McNeill’s athleticism comes from his history playing running back in high school. It is shocking how frequently that athleticism shows up on his game tape playing defensive line in college.
Alim McNeill might not be the most technically refined or advanced pass-rusher. But he has elite explosiveness and the ability to barrel through offensive linemen en route to the quarterback. McNeill posted 10 sacks through 32 career games and, according to Pro Football Focus, had a 9.3% pass-rush win rate, far above the draft class average from his position.
McNeill’s run-defense grade via PFF was 92.1 with a 77.5 pass-rushing grade. He has the ability to make plays in both facets of the game. The hope is for the New York Giants to re-sign Dalvin Tomlinson this offseason. But if they are unable to make that happen, drafting Alim McNeill would be quite the backup plan.