New York Giants: Nick Saban breaks down why Xavier McKinney can be an elite defender

Alexander Wilson
New York Giants, Xavier McKinney
New York Giants, Xavier McKinney

The New York Giants could have gone multiple different routes with their second-round pick in the 2020 NFL draft. Ultimately, they drafted the best safety available in Xavier McKinney out of Alabama. McKinney is a diverse athlete that can move up into the strong safety position but also act as a ball hawk in the deeper portion of the secondary. He’s essentially the coverage version of Isaiah Simmons, playing snaps all over the defense for Alabama and displaying a unique set of quality attributes.

McKinney has many different positives to transfer over to the NFL, some of them being his turnover ability, recording for forced fumbles of three interceptions in 2019, his impressive tackling efficiency, and versatility you can’t often find at the free safety position.

Alabama closely mimics NFL style defenses, under Nick Saban. The legendary coach had nothing but great things to say about McKinney and his transition to the NFL while featuring on the “Giants Huddle” podcast recently.

“I think Xavier has a lot of diversity as a player,” Saban said. “He can play man-to-man, he’s got pretty good ball judgment, he’s a good tackler, he’s got a lot of toughness, he’s a very instinctive and effective blitzer. He’s got some burst and acceleration to come off the edge or blitz up the middle and he’s got enough power to take on a blocker if he needs to. So he can do just about all the critical factors in terms of what we look for in a safety here. As he got experience, he was smart enough to be able to play multiple positions.

“I think the guy’s got some dog in him. He’s a competitive guy. He’s a playmaker. We have a production point system here that we use, and he was always high on that board because he forces fumbles, shows up in the right place, does a good job of executing. He’s instinctive, he’s a quick reactor, he’s got a burst. He can be a knock-back tackler. So he’s always been a real playmaker for us and it comes in a lot of different ways, but that’s probably his greatest strength – his production.”

The New York Giants might have lucked out big time:

If Saban is right about the standout player, the New York Giants will have landed a premium safety in the second round of the draft. Xavier has already started off his tenure in New York on a high note, connecting with fans on social media and giving back to the community. His mentality and high character have shined in the early days, indicating he will be a staple for the Giants moving forward. If he can back up the hype on the field, the Giants’ defense could see a significant boost in 2020.