New York Giants: Nick Saban tells us exactly what we want to hear with Xavier McKinney

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

When the New York Giants selected safety Xavier McKinney with their second-round pick in the 2020 NFL draft, most were pleasantly surprised he was still available. Going into the draft as the top-rated safety, the Giants filled the position with great talent and potential. His ability to move up into a strong safety role and rush the passer is unique, allowing defensive coordinator Patrick Graham to utilize his skillset appropriately.

In 2019, McKinney tallied 95 tackles, 5.5 for a loss, 3.0 sacks, three interceptions, and four forced fumbles. His seven total turnovers were impressive, and the hope is he can translate that to the NFL level — a category the Giants struggled in last season,

The New York Giants are getting a high-ceiling player with Xavier McKinney:

McKinney is just 20 years old, attesting to his youth and developmental potential. As a junior in 2019, he was one of the best safeties and defensive players in college football, and bringing his talents over to the New York Giants as a second-round pick represents stellar value. Playing on a high caliber defense with Alabama allowed him to see what an NFL style scheme might look like.

Alabama head coach Nick Saban had nothing but good things to say about McKinney, who played a defense similar to the scheme Saban utilized while coaching the Dolphins and acting as Bill Belichick‘s defensive coordinator in Cleveland many years ago. When the six-time national champion head coach says something good about a player, it is best to listen and consider it.

“I think it’ll be helpful to him because we do – when I was coach at the Dolphins or Bill Belichick’s defensive coordinator in Cleveland – we do a lot of the same stuff here from a coverage standpoint, from a secondary standpoint,” the six-time national champion head coach said on the “Giants Huddle” podcast. “So our guys typically make good adjustments. I know a few years ago we had six guys sign NFL contracts and five of them ended up starting as rookies. Even though this will be a transition, I think most of the things that ‘X’ is going to be exposed to, he’s probably done. They might call it something different. I think it’ll be an easy transition for him.”

Mckinney’s diversity as a player, and the ability to play man coverage makes him much more than just a free safety. He is a fantastic tackler and brings toughness and speed to the game. While his 40-yard dash was a bit lackluster, he was dealing with cramps, and his game speed far surpasses one inadequate drill at the combine. Patrick Graham will have an excellent time utilizing him as a Blitzer, considering his style and high percentage blitz right from the safety and linebacker positions across the board. Expect to see McKinney very active on defense and playing a similar role to Jabrill peppers at times, confusing the opposing offense frequently.