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How Lions' pick of Alim McNeill led to awkward moment in Eagles' draft room

USA TODAY SPORTS logo USA TODAY SPORTS 5/4/2021 Dave Birkett, Detroit Free Press
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When Brad Holmes defied conventional wisdom and took a defensive tackle for the second straight pick on Day 2 of last week's NFL draft, it apparently caused caught-on-camera friction in the Philadelphia Eagles' draft room.

Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said Tuesday in a Philadelphia radio interview that the Eagles had two defensive tackles in mind when they traded down from No. 70 to 73 for a sixth-round draft pick: Louisiana Tech's Milton Williams and North Carolina State's Alim McNeill.

a group of baseball players standing on top of a field: North Carolina State defensive tackle Alim McNeill celebrates a sack against Florida State on Nov. 3, 2018 in Raleigh, N.C. © Rob Kinnan, USA TODAY Sports North Carolina State defensive tackle Alim McNeill celebrates a sack against Florida State on Nov. 3, 2018 in Raleigh, N.C.

The Detroit Lions, who took Washington defensive tackle Levi Onwuzurike in the second round, drafted McNeill at No. 72, one pick before the Eagles took Williams.

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As Roseman went around the draft room fist-bumping his colleagues in celebration, he was greeted with a tepid response and what appeared to be words of disagreement from Eagles senior director of player personnel Tom Donahoe.

Speaking on 94 WIP on Tuesday, Roseman indicated that Donahue's dismay stemmed from the Lions' selection.

"We're at pick 71, we have two guys — two guys — standing out on our board. Two defensive linemen, and they're different. They're different flavors," Roseman said. "One's a three technique, one is more of a nose tackle. And so, obviously when you have different flavors everyone likes different flavors."

While the Eagles' trade down created some obvious tension, Holmes was effusive in his praise for McNeill, an athletic nose tackle who had 10 sacks in three seasons at North Carolina State and should play a rotational role for the Lions this fall.

"(When you) first watched him you’re thinking of not having seen him live physically, but watching him on film, he seems like a kind of shorter, wider guy, so you’re automatically thinking, ‘OK, he’s your typical two-down anchor nose tackle,’" Holmes said. "But then you keep watching him and it’s like, ‘Wait, hold up. This dude’s got some quickness that you don’t usually see from a guy this big and this powerful,’ so he was really fun."

As Roseman explained in WIP, disagreements happen frequently on draft day and especially in the build up to the draft, it's just rare when those moments are so obviously caught on camera for the public to digest.

"Discussion and debate and having these conversations, it's OK," Roseman said. "You'd rather that. You'd rather have that passion. Tom's been here for a long time. We've been together for 10 years. Extremely close relationship. It's OK to have tough conversations, and Tom and I have had a lot of them in 10 years and that's why you want people around you who aren't going to just tell you everything you're doing's OK. They're going to give you their perspective and we have that."

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: How Lions' pick of Alim McNeill led to awkward moment in Eagles' draft room

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