The New York Giants have a need at the safety position. While they added Jabrill Peppers and Julian Love last year, both players have done better playing closer to the line of scrimmage than they did playing over the top.
But while we can identify the need, we don’t exactly know what kind of safety would interest the Giants, because we don’t know exactly what kind of defense Patrick Graham will call. If the Giants select a safety early in the draft, the skill set of the player selected could tell us quite a lot about what kind of defense the defense have in mind.
Alabama’s Xavier McKinney , for instance, is a versatile and well-rounded player, who could fit well in a defense that prefers to call a variety of coverage shells.
Prospect: Xavier McKinney (S, Alabama)
Games Watched: vs. Ole Miss (2018), vs. Arkansas (2019), vs. LSU (2019), vs. Auburn (2019)
Red Flags: none
Games Played: 32
Tackles For a loss: 13.0
Forced Fumbles: 6
Passes Defensed: 15
Games Played: 13
Tackles For a loss: 5.5
Forced Fumbles: 4
Passes Defensed: 5
Best: Football IQ, communication, versatility, ball skills, lower body explosiveness
Worst: Range, man coverage
Projection: A starting safety in defense that uses Cover 2, Cover 3, or Cover 4 shells.
Xavier McKinney has good size, football IQ, and a well-rounded skill set to play a variety of safety roles at the NFL level.
McKinney aligned as both a deep and box safety in Alabama’s defense and was consistently productive in both positions. He shows good football IQ and communication skill, helping to get his teammates lined up and in position before the snap. McKinney has the range to rotate coverage at the snap, transitioning from a deep safety to a box safety role, or vice versa, with little wasted time and motion.
McKinney is quick to hit his landmarks dropping into zone coverage, getting good depth and good spacing from his teammates. He has good awareness of his position on the field, players entering and exiting his zone. He also shows a good ability to read the quarterback’s eyes and let them lead him to the play.
McKinney is quick to trigger downhill in the run game, showing good competitive toughness and willingness as a run defender. He generally takes good angles to the ball and is disciplined in his run fits. McKinney generally uses good form in tackling and shows a good closing burst as he nears the ball carrier.
McKinney shows some tightness in his hips and ankles, limiting his ability to turn and run with offensive players in man coverage. He can be slow to transition from a backpedal to running with a receiver and occasionally have balance issues when asked to change direction quickly in close quarters. McKinney is also a bit inconsistent in his angles to the football, occasionally taking careless or overly aggressive angles, which impact his ability to tackle with good form. McKinney also lacks long speed which limits his range in coverage.
Overall Grade: 6.6 - Should start immediately as a rookie and should be considered a reliable starter early in his career. A day 1 value. [Grading Scale]
Xavier McKinney projects as a scheme-diverse starting safety at the NFL level. McKinney has the versatility to be moved around the defensive back 7, and can be used as a deep safety or a box safety as necessary to match up with offensive players or to disguise coverages. McKinney was often rotated from a disguise at or just before the snap, and shows the ability to handle complicated defensive concepts.
McKinney has very good communication skills and is constantly communicating and helping his teammates adjust before the snap.
McKinney should primarily be used in zone coverages as a pass defender. He shows good awareness and adequate range for most coverage zones, which allows him to put his football IQ to use. McKinney is good at reading the offense and the quarterback’s eyes to anticipate the play, as well as coming downhill as a run defender. He has good ball skills and a habit of creating opportunities for turnovers, whether they be forced fumbles, passes batted, or interceptions.
McKinney should not be asked to cover athletic offensive players in man coverage. He doesn’t have the fluidity to stay in phase with NFL caliber receivers or athletic tight ends and running backs. Likewise, he doesn’t show the range to be a true center-fielding safety in a Cover 1 shell. However, he has plenty of range to play in a deep half, third, or quarter. Likewise, those shells would allow him to disguise his intentions and rotate to his actual coverage at the snap to disguise a blitz.
He is also effective as a blitzer, showing good timing, anticipation, and burst.
McKinney is a willing run defender who can be a hard hitter. He needs to be a bit more consistent in taking good angles to limit the potential for yards after contact as a team’s last line of defense. Better angles would also help him be more consistent in his tackling technique.
All told, McKinney has the upside to be a good, versatile, and reliable safety for almost any defense in the NFL.