Lions draft DT Alim McNeill, CB Ifeatu Melifonwu in third round

Alim McNeill Georgia Tech NC State Football
Ifeatu Melifonwu Senior Bowl Football
Posted at 12:01 AM, May 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-01 00:01:30-04

DETROIT (AP) — The Detroit Lions selected a pair of defensive tackles on the second day of the NFL draft, taking Levi Onwuzurike of Washington in the second round and Alim McNeill of N.C. State in the third on Friday night.

Later in the third round, the Lions took cornerback Ifeatu Melifonwu of Syracuse.

Onwuzurike played mostly nose tackle with the Huskies. He was a second-team All-American in the preseason, but he opted out of the 2020 season.

“It was real difficult just watching my boys out there,” Onwuzurike said. “I was real proud of them, real proud of what they did that season. It was for sure hard to watch. I felt like I went back to being a fan.”

It’s the second straight day the Lions tried to improve on the line of scrimmage. They drafted offensive tackle Penei Sewell — who also opted out last season — with the seventh overall pick. Onwuzurike played against Sewell when Washington faced Oregon.

“One of the quickest players I’ve ever played against,” Onwuzurike said. “Very balanced, very big, but also has an athletic build. He’s almost like a tight end at the tackle position. He’s elite.”

Onwuzurike was taken at No. 41. He played in all 13 games in 2019, starting 12. He was named to the AP’s All-Pac-12 second team. He had 95 tackles and seven sacks in three seasons at Washington.

McNeill, the draft’s 72nd pick, made the AP’s All-Atlantic Coast Conference first team this past season.

McNeill, now a beefy lineman, actually played some running back in high school. He was also an outfielder in baseball.

“Baseball was actually my first sport,” McNeill said. “I didn’t see myself as a big guy in the outfield, honestly. I see myself as an athlete out there, just making plays, tracking balls down.”

Melifonwu had 88 career tackles and three interceptions in college. He was drafted with pick No. 101.

Onwuzurike entertained Detroit-area reporters on his introductory Zoom call with his carefree attitude. He sprinkled expletives liberally into his responses and seemed excited to be drafted, even though he wasn’t taken until the second day.

“I wasn’t tripping,” he said. “At the end of the day, wherever I end up, I’m going to ball out, so I was just waiting.”