The New York Giants have invested heavily in their secondary over the past two offseasons. In 2019, New York drafted three defensive backs. In 2020, the Giants doubled down, drafting three more defensive backs and signing free agent James Bradberry to a large contract.
One of the Giants’ most exciting picks in the secondary came in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft. With that thirty-sixth overall pick, the New York Giants selected safety Xavier McKinney out of Alabama. McKinney was projected to be a first-round pick but the Giants were lucky enough to steal him in the second round. McKinney joins the Giants’ youthful secondary as one of the team’s most talented defensive playmakers.
A Potentially Elite Safety Duo
Xavier McKinney joins a young secondary that already featured a talented safety in Jabrill Peppers. Peppers was impressive for the Giants in 2019, prior to suffering a season-ending injury. The former Cleveland Brown totaled 76 combined tackles in 11 games. He also added 3 forced fumbles, 5 passes defended, and 1 interception (a pick-six).
Peppers is an ideal box-safety. He has the physicality and playing style of a linebacker but he has the speed and body type of a safety. Peppers and McKinney are similar in this way. They both have the ability to make an impact in coverage and against the run. They truly have the potential to create an elite duo. But McKinney’s role in the defense will be a bit more diverse than Peppers’s.
A Versatile Talent
Jabrill Peppers is excellent in the box and can play coverage well enough to where he is not a liability. But Xavier McKinney can play coverage well enough to shut down some opposing targets. One of Xavier’s most coveted traits leading up to the draft was his ability to take opposing tight ends out of the game.
Additionally, McKinney has received tons of praise for the work he does as a pass-rusher. According to Pro Football Focus, McKinney earned an 89.2 coverage grade as a junior while also recording 10 pressures. In the past two years, Xavier recorded 21 pressures across 71 pass-rushing snaps. The Giants needed someone to rush the passer and someone to guard tight ends. McKinney will fill both of those roles.
While coaching the Miami defense in 2019, Graham blitzed on 35% of their snaps, which ranked seventh in frequency among all NFL teams. On third down, the unit blitzed 41% of the time, which was the third-highest rate. Graham utilized linebackers and safeties significantly on blitzes and to drop back in coverage. Both Peppers and McKinney will be used heavily in that role and likely interchange to keep defenses on their toes. – via Alex Wilson of Empire Sports Media
Plenty of fans wanted to see the Giants draft Isaiah Simmons with the fourth overall pick. Simmons possesses elite versatility as a linebacker, lining up all over Clemson’s defense. The Giants opted to go a different route but ultimately landed the next-best-thing in the second round of the draft with Xavier McKinney. In college, Xavier McKinney played over 200 snaps at three different positions; 323 snaps in the box, 227 in the slot, and 271 deep (PFF).
Xavier McKinney is an extraordinary talent. He can do so many different things on the football field and he does all of them well. McKinney is also a perfect fit in Patrick Graham’s scheme which places a large emphasis on man-coverage and disguised blitzes. Combining his talents with this scheme will lead to instant success for the Giants’ new safety.