SANTA CLARA, CA - JANUARY 07: Hunter Renfrow #13 of the Clemson Tigers attempts to catch the pass under pressure from Xavier McKinney #15 of the Alabama Crimson Tide in the CFP National Championship presented by AT&T at Levi's Stadium on January 7, 2019 in Santa Clara, California.
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Taking a look at what New York Giants second-round pick Xavier McKinney can bring to this franchise as a safety.

Ryan Honey

On Friday, the New York Giants decided to bolster their defensive backfield after addressing the offensive tackle spot in the first round of the draft. With their second-round pick (No. 36 overall), Big Blue took Alabama safety Xavier McKinney, who earned first-team All-SEC honors in 2019.

McKinney is a versatile safety who can succeed in pass coverage while also possessing the ability to come up and stop the run, having recorded 59 solo tackles last year. There’s no taking away from his immense talent, but what exactly will Xavier be bringing to the franchise?

Let’s take a look at some film from McKinney’s collegiate career.

Film room notes

The following clips are from Alabama’s 2019 loss to its arch-rival, Auburn.

Right away, it’s clear McKinney is fast and athletic enough to play sideline-to-sideline. His versatility is evident too, as he can line up as a deep safety and also near the line of scrimmage, depending on the situation. The Giants and Dave Gettleman obviously prefer versatility in the defensive backfield, as both Jabrill Peppers and Julian Love additionally portray that quality.

In the above play, McKinney’s aggression is on display…big time. He initially lines up deep, backs up to defend the pass, but then quickly comes up to make the big tackle on the Auburn touch-pass sweep.

Not to mention, he has a knack to force turnovers, as he picked off three passes and forced four fumbles in 2019.

One of those forced fumbles is displayed above, where McKinney shows the ability to locate the ball in order to punch it out of the ball carrier’s grasp.

Although not a forced fumble on this specific play, McKinney is still able to find the ball and jar it loose from the receiver, forcing an Auburn incompletion.

 

McKinney can additionally break down and take great angles when looking to bring down an opponent, as shown in the above play.

Now, let’s move onto Bama’s 2019 loss to LSU, the eventual national champions.

 

In this clip, McKinney, once again, puts his versatility and aggression on display, as he starts near the line of scrimmage and bursts through the hole to bring down the ball carrier. He shows great technique on the tackle by wrapping up and driving his feet until running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire hits the turf.

That wrap-up technique is shown again here, this time in the open field.

McKinney’s speed also helps him in pass-rushing scenarios. As soon as he finds that lane to the backfield, he’s coming in hot, and the quarterback only has a limited amount of time before he ultimately hits the ground.

The newest Giant put that quality on display against Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow in the above second-quarter play…

…and then again on this play, where he came on the rush and forced a fumble of Burrow in the third quarter of the loss…

…and finally, a third time on a late-game sack.

Conclusion

Regardless of what you think of the pick (whether you believe they should’ve taken a center or edge rusher instead), you can’t deny that McKinney is evidently talented. He’s fast, athletic, aggressive, can line up anywhere on the field, and is a sideline-to-sideline player.

If he starts at the free safety spot alongside Peppers, look for New York to employ one of the more athletic and versatile safety tandems in the entire league.

Should be fun and interesting to watch in 2020 and beyond.

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