The New York Giants fully believe they have their next top free safety in Xavier McKinney, who they drafted in the second round of the 2020 NFL draft. Coming out of an NFL style defense with Alabama, McKinney brings essential experience and fundamentals from a Nick Saban lead organization.
In 2019, McKinney posted 95 total tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 3.0 sacks, three interceptions, and four forced fumbles. Some might say that he is undersized for the position he projects as in the NFL. He blurs the line between free safety and strong safety. I prefer he leans toward ball hawk in the Giants’ secondary.
The New York Giants have plenty of potential to work with
Despite McKinney’s strengths, he has weaknesses to iron out as well. He is an aggressive tackler that aims for turnovers but sometimes hits a little too high. In the NFL, he will need to focus on tackling the legs of opponents. His frame is a little small for a “$ backer” role. I don’t think he can take the constant ground and pound from NFL-level running backs. This position curated by the Arizona Cardinals in 2016 essentially hosts a smaller more agile linebacker that can drop into the box but also cover if need be. McKinney’s size simply doesn’t match up with those expectations.
The Alabama product has impeccable game speed and an astronomically high football IQ. He has great timing on passes and often gets to the point of attack quickly, disrupting catches and targets. I love his ability to burst on routes and his reaction timing attests to that.
While I don’t believe McKinney has the ability to roam in a cover-1 scheme, I believe the Giants will utilize multiple safety looks to give him more help on the boundary.
What to love about McKinney
The most exciting aspect of McKinney is the number of different roles he can play. His versatility makes him a plug and play starter in the NFL, and the Giants desperately need a young face at free safety. Last season, Big Blue had Antoine Bethea starting in the deep half, and his efficiency in coverage was disastrous. He was better playing against the run and sneaking up to the line of scrimmage. McKinney should be a more well-rounded player and offer the upside that Bethea simply didn’t have at his age.
I believe he fits very well in Patrick Graham’s defensive scheme, which utilizes man coverage about 50% of the time. He also blitzes heavily on third downs. With a matchup specific style, McKinney will be given the leniency to move around the defense and attack from different angles. His blend of size, processing power, and range give him a solid foundation to develop and build upon.