Birthday: December 15, 1979
Strengths: On DeMarco McNeil’s official bio, he lists becoming an agent for the FBI as something he aspires to be some day. For now, he’s doing his best to make his way onto the Top 10 Most Wanted Lists of NFL draft boards.
McNeil plays like an ornery tough guy, and teammate Dontarrious Thomas says that McNeil plays without any fear. McNeil bullies his way up the middle and stuffs a lot of runs at the line of scrimmage. He’s good in pursuit and can find his way into the backfield. McNeil stays sharp all year long by banging heads each day in practice with 6’5” 350-pound guard Monreko Crittenden, a first-day possibility in his own right.
Though he is not among the elite tackles in terms of his quickness, McNeil does show great anticipation of the snap count, and he has a trigger-happy first step. And don’t discount his hands, either. McNeil plays with good technique and has a pair of interceptions to his credit.
A starter since his redshirt freshman season, McNeil will be entering the 2003 season with 34 starts to his credit. He began the 2002 season slowly but finished strong, highlighted by his performance against Penn State in the Capital One Bowl. He led a Tiger line that hit first rounder Larry Johnson early and often as they kept a 2000-yard rusher in check for just 72 yards. McNeil also forced a fumble in the contest.
Areas for Concern: McNeil has yet to really fulfill the promise of his freshman season. He tailed off in the second half of his sophomore season because of a right knee injury that required offseason surgery. He returned to play his entire junior season, but the lingering effects of his surgery meant that he was never really 100 percent. His coaches may limit his snaps in 2003 because they want to keep his knees fresh all season.
McNeil is also a little stubby for a defensive tackle, and he has short arms. If he could add more muscle to his frame it would help him succeed in the NFL, but that seems to be a big if with his frame. McNeil’s technique is what one would expect from a veteran with as much playing time as McNeil has had, but when he’s been neutralized, it’s been against bigger linemen with more experience, and there are plenty of those in the NFL. He doesn’t project to be the type of pass rushing specialist that will catapult his draft status beyond the middle to end of the first round, even if teams think his knee has fully recovered.
How Does He Look in Steel Blue? Despite all those concerns, McNeil has been playing at a high level at Auburn for each of his three years, and he is possibly the highest rated senior tackle in the 2004 draft. A 3-4 defense won’t necessarily ask McNeil to be a pass rusher, and having less-than-ideal height isn’t too detrimental for a good nose guard as long as he can command a double team.
So McNeil needs to prove that he is worthy of a double team. He has dominated on every level thus far, and he’s a smart player on the field as well as a film room junkie off of it. The Texans might bite if McNeil slips toward the second round, but if he does, it will be because of the health concerns with his knee.
(profile written by Keith Weiland)
DeMarco McNeil’s 2002 Stats G TCK TFL SKS FF FR 13 40 6 1 2 0 DeMarco McNeil Return to The War Room
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