One of the most unpredictable NFL Drafts kicks off Thursday and Lions fans have been debating who Detroit will select in the first round.
Once a top prospect in the draft, Georgia defensive lineman Jalen Carter may have to wait to hear his name called.
Carter pleaded no contest to reckless driving in connection with a fatal street race that killed a college teammate. And he showed up out-of-shape during Georgia’s pro day, opting to only do position drills but unable to finish them.
These incidents seem to make Carter a poor fit for the kind of tough, selfless team the Lions are trying to build under head coach Dan Campbell.
Yet Detroit — who owns the sixth overall draft pick — has frequently been linked to Carter, who would fill a need on the team’s defensive line.
The player he would line up beside if Detroit drafts him, Lions defensive tackle Alim McNeill, says the team could use a player with the talent Carter possesses.
Listen: Lions defensive tackle Alim McNeill talks NFL Draft, the team’s culture, more in WDET interview
The following interview was edited for clarity.
Alim McNeill: I don’t for a second believe that stuff that I’ve seen in the media about [Carter]. But have you ever seen him play? I mean, he’s a dawg. He’s what everybody says that he is. I’ve definitely seen him play. I watched him play live. He’s really, really good. But I don’t really believe what the media is pushing out. I like him as a football player. And I believe that he’s a better person than what they’re trying to paint him to be.
Quinn Klinefelter, WDET News: Lions head coach Dan Campbell and general manager Brad Holmes have said a lot about trying to build this tough, positive culture within the team. Do you really find that? Is that really a thing that you find on the field and in the locker room?
Yeah, 100%. How they come off in the media is like literally who they are 100% of the time. So everything they’ve been preaching to the internet is what they’re saying to us. And that’s what we believe in. That’s what we’ve been working towards achieving as a team.
Do you have to do anything different when you’re trying to play that way? You’ve been on a lot of different teams. How does this compare to some of the other ones in college or wherever you were before?
That is the culture that we want to build as a team, of course, but every culture is pretty much kind of the same way. It’s just done in different ways. If you compared N.C. State to where I’m at now, we were the same in that way. We were literally the same from the bottom up. I wouldn’t say like an easy transition to go on, but I’d felt this before coming from college.
You were a rookie not too long ago, a rookie draft pick. How hard was it to adapt, not just to the Lions, but to the NFL?
It was definitely a hard task. But having great veterans and great leadership around me helped it become an easier transition. Just being able to listen and work behind them, see the things that they do, whether it is recovering from an injury or on the field, just a lot of different little things. I wouldn’t say it was the worst thing ever, but it was definitely a hard transition.
You’re hosting the NFL alumni’s annual Detroit Draft Party. It’s the first time it’s taken place since the pandemic began. Just what is that party about and how did you come to be the host?
Actually, I came to be the host through one of our security members, Moe. He connected me with Mr. Ron Rice, who actually had met my parents like way earlier before on a flight, which was actually crazy. But I came to be the host through them. The event is a fundraiser, but it’s also an enjoyable event for the community to be able to come out and have fun.
And that’s something important for the team, for yourself, trying to reach out to the community?
Oh, yeah, for sure. Being involved with the community is huge, especially for me personally. I wanted to be able to do that, so this is one of the first things I’ve done. This is very small and minuscule in a way in regards to things that I would really want to do in getting involved with the community. But this is…just a start. And I think it’s just something enjoyable on both sides.
What is an Alim McNeill-hosted party like?
We’ll have to see. I’ve never hosted one.